Are MRI Arthrograms painful?
I have dealt with a lot of pain in my lifetime. I’ve had two children, I have had surgery on both hands for carpal tunnel syndrome, both shoulders have been operated on, a gallbladder removed and a major neck surgery. This girl KNOWS pain, and I can deal with a lot of it. Recently, however, I experienced one of the most brutal things in my life – an incredibly painful MRI Arthrogram. If you are wondering if MRI Arthrograms are painful, read on:
I’ve had hip pain for close to a year, and on the last visit to my doctor, she wrote an order for an MRI with and without contrast. My insurance company rejected that, but said that they could do an MRI with contrast only. Great, I’ve had those done before – it’s not a big deal!
When I arrived at the facility and started filling out paperwork, it mentioned an Arthrogram MRI. I was unfamiliar with this type of test and read the paperwork which listed the risks. I was called in and led to a room with a table and an X-ray machine above it. I put on a fancy little hospital robe and got on the table. There was a technician (doctor) and a nurse in the room with me. The technician explained that they were going to inject a local anesthetic in my groin/hip area, then insert another needle for the contrast to be administered. He said I might feel a “fullness”.
I was doing okay when he put the first needle in. It didn’t feel great, but it was certainly tolerable. He announced that he was going to insert the needle for the contrast, and I was prepared. Well, I thought I was prepared at least. He kept pushing it further and further RIGHT into my hip joint/socket. When he actually released the contrast liquid, I damn near jumped off of the table, while screaming some “unladylike” words. I held still the best I could until he was done and the needle was removed. “Needle” sounds so innocent. It felt more like a jackhammer.
I sat up on the table and immediately started crying. It hurt SO bad. When I went to get off the table I thought I would buckle. I could barely put weight on that foot but it was time to walk to the MRI. Looking back, I would have asked for a wheelchair. Unfortunately the MRI was still occupied, so they had me sit in dressing room (little cubicles lining the hallway). I thought I would die – the pain was UNREAL! I couldn’t sit and I couldn’t stand. I was completely miserable. A nurse came by and was very concerned, but she said that the MRI should open up soon. It felt like forever, but finally I limped my way to the MRI machine.
The tech got me all situated, including taping my feet with my toes pointing toward each other. I was still crying because of the pain, and as they moved me into the tube, I knew it was going to be a horrible experience. Not only was I sobbing and shaking, but the pain prevented me from being able to hold still. I was trying SO hard and it was brutal. It was pure agony. After about 20 minutes the tech came in and said that they couldn’t get a clear picture and we needed to try again. Again?? I was so upset and the thought of doing it again was terrifying. I just wanted to get it over with since I had come this far already, so in I went for a second time. I tried extra hard this time, because I didn’t want to have to try a 3rd time. Still in tears, I tried to talk myself through it. Being trapped like that while in excruciating pain just seems barbaric to me. The tech pulled me out after 15 minutes and said again that the film is blurry because I was moving too much. He wanted to try a third time and I just couldn’t. I was not only in pain, but I was frustrated because all of this was for naught. I vowed that I would never do this again, and I never will.
Driving home was “fun” too.
I don’t understand why they wouldn’t put someone out for this procedure, like a twilight sleep or at least something to lessen the pain or make a person not remember the procedure at all. This experience was incredibly traumatic for me, and I am just really surprised that I haven’t heard more about it.
I read some online forums when I got home, as I was curious if it was just me. Nope, there were plenty of people saying that it was incredibly painful and the worst pain of their life. Like me, many said that they would NEVER do this again.
I ended up going ahead with my appointment with the orthopedist (initially I was waiting for results of an MRI), and he said they are typically looking for a cartilage labrum tear in the hip area when they do an MRI. It turns out that I have a lot of arthritis in my hip, as well as bursitis. He gave me three options for treatments – prescription anti-inflammatory medicine, cortisone shots, or hip replacement surgery (he didn’t recommend the latter just yet, as I am still kind of young for that). I opted for the anti-inflammatories, as I swore I would never, ever have another cortisone injection, after my really bad experience with a cortisone shot in my knee years ago.
If before your procedure, you asked yourself “Are MRI Arthrograms painful?”, I would love to hear your thoughts after the procedure. I would be grateful if you can leave a comment sharing your story.