I will be undertaking my first round of post-radiation MRI’s this evening through Friday evening.
Normally, a patient in my situation would just do one MRI, and be done with it until the docs look at it and give you the scoop.
I won’t know my results until Nov. 30, but I will be doing 3 different MRI’s over the course of these next three consecutive evenings, instead of just the one. This is happening because I am taking part in a research study involving MRI contrast agents.
What is a contrast agent, you ask? Let me begin by making it clear on this blog from the get-go that I know very little about medicine, human biology, doctor/hospital stuff, etc etc…. so, apologies in advance if I butcher some of the technical lingo etc. I’m probably not the best person to explain anything technical, but you can always search on the internet for more detailed (and potentially more accurate) info. For ‘contrast agents’, you could start here.
To dumb it down, a ‘contrast agent’ is something that an MRI tech injects you with during an MRI. It helps them enhance the clarity of the picture of your brain and the blood flow going through your brain. An IV is placed in one of your veins before the MRI begins, so that you’re all set for the injection during the MRI. You’re slid into the MRI tube, and they start the initial scan. About halfway through the scan, they inject you with the ‘contrast agent’ and continue with the scanning.
The ‘contrast agent’ normally used in MRI’s is called Gadolinium. OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) is studying the use of something called Ferumoxytol as a contrast agent. Ferumoxytol is basically a type of iron (as in the mineral iron). It’s magnetic, so I guess it stands to reason that it might help with Magnetic Resonance Imaging! Ferumoxytol is normally used to treat iron deficiency anemia in patients with chronic kidney disease. One of the researchers at OHSU had the bright idea to try using it as a MRI contrast agent instead of Gadolinium, so that is what’s being studied. Ferumoxytol vs. Gadolinium.
I had started participating in this study before my surgery/brain cancer diagnosis, and I figure that there’s no reason why I should stop now, so that’s what I’m up to for the rest of this week. If there’s a chance that they can get a better picture of my brain, or someone else’s brain down the road, I’m all for it.
Since this is part of a research study, OHSU performs these MRI’s during ‘off-hours’, when the MRI machines are most likely dormant. I had to do my first 2 rounds of these research MRI’s real early in the mornings (at like 6am) back in July prior to my surgery, and then also after surgery, prior to starting radiation. The last MRI that I did was at the end of August, so it’s been a minute! Doing them in the evenings this time around will be much more convenient, I suspect. But it’s still 3 MRI’s instead of just the one.
Day 1 (today): They basically just do a normal MRI using gadolinium as the contrast agent.
Day 2 (tomorrow) They use Ferumoxytol as the contrast agent.
Day 3 (Friday): They do not use any contrast agent.
My docs will look at all of the MRI’s to assess if my tumor has started to grow back, or if any of the other areas of concern have morphed. I won’t find out these results until Nov. 30.
As far as the research study goes, they’ll compare the quality and usefulness of all three images. I won’t likely hear much about that.
That’s it. I’ll probably check back in here after Nov. 30th. Meantime, I’ll leave you with an example of what I’ll have to listen to during the next few days instead of the music that I was fortunate to have during radiation. See how many minutes you can hack it before you turn it off, then imagine listening to it while your head is inside the equivalent of a 5-gallon bucket for an hour!