Monday, December 13, 2004

Fun With Iodine and Radiation

Thursday, December 9th I went to the "imaging center" for the scheduled testing for my kidneys. When I went there, I only knew that they were going to take another x-ray, but this time with a luminous dye injected into my veins.

First I had to figure out how to get the light blue hospital gowns on properly; the x-ray technician gave me two gowns to put on. "One opens in the back, and the other you put on like a robe," she explained. I didn't understand immediately, and was further baffled to see that the two gowns were identical. How can I put two identical gowns on differently? I thought. After a couple minutes of struggling and feeling like I was failing at some sort of surprise I.Q. test, suddenly it made sense: one gown goes goes over my arms with the opening in the back. The other goes right on top of it, except with the opening in the front. I don't know why they couldn't just have gowns that slip on over your head instead of giving you two gowns that need instructions to understand.

With the gown finally on, the x-ray tech had me stand with my back flat against a big board. A large mechanical device—clearly the x-ray camera—hovered just in front of me. She swiveled it down to over my abdomen so that I was right between the camera andboard. She took several x-rays of my abdomen, a couple directly of my front, then asking me to twist to face roughly 25 degrees left and then 25 degrees right for addition x-rays. Then she said, "There are hand-holds there right by your hand." I grabbed them, and the entire board and camera, including me, tilted back gradually. "Cool, I get a ride!" I said. The tech smiled. The platform stopped once my head was just slightly lower than my feet. She asked me to slightly bend my knees, took another x-ray or two, then had me twist my knees to the left then the right for more angled shots. She then lowered me back to the upright standing position.

She took me to the next room where there was a familiar MRI scanner, much like the one pictured here on the How Stuff Works website. The MRI process was already familiar to me, having had one done only a couple weeks previous, plus another with that hellish "piña colada" luminous drink back around May of 1999.

I laid down on the table/gurney and was lifted in for a quick scan without any dye. The familiar recorded voice told me "breathe... and hold" and before I knew it, the first scan was done. Then the MRI technician hooked up my left arm with the iodine dye which would display my arterial system's functions for the next scan. The needle itself was little more than a quick pang of pain, then it was fine. But the more compelling sensation came as the dye flowed into my veins: a deep, warm "glowing" sensation that radiates and spreads through the body, settling especially strongly in the posterior. Once the dye was coursing through me, the table lifted me up and in, the MRI scanner spun up, and the recorded voice again said, "breathe... and hold." And that was it.

They disconnected me from the iodine, but left the little rubber tube in my arm just in case they needed to redo the scans. I was walked back to the x-ray machine. With my head feeling already mildly foggy and spacey from the iodine dye, the x-ray tech again had me stand against the board, put the large camera up to my abdomen, and swiveled me and the entire camera up once more. This time it tipped back even further so that my feet were perhaps a foot or 18 inches higher than my head. I expect this probably just helped the dye to flow more readily through me. She took a couple more shots, and I was able to watch the x-ray images come up on a screen to my right while she and the radiologists checked the images. I noticed white "bubbles" of varying size around the area of my kidneys, and suspected that maybe those were the cysts. But I didn't ask.

The x-ray tech removed the rubber tube from my left arm, apologizing for the painfulness of removing the strong tape. "I hate having to do this to guys," she said, "I never know whether to do it slowly or in one quick rip." I changed back into my regular clothes, and went out to the car where Elisa was waiting.

The people in the imaging center are not permitted to read the images or discuss any potential diagnosis with me, so I don't know anything about actual results or what the x-rays and MRI scans turned up. My next appointment is to see the Nephrologist on December 22nd. I hope and expect he'll be able to tell me more.

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