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Any idea why I have excruciating pain in my left arm during MRI's?

Hi. I'm a 21 year old female with a long medical history. (F.Y.I.- I have no tattoos and only my ears pierced) Long story short my current doctors are trying to figure out why I have Myoclonus (muscle jerks) hence the multiple MRI'S. I had surgery on my left elbow for cubital tunnel (pinched ulnar nerve) in 2016.  I have noticed that during my past 3 MRIs my left arm is fine for maybe 2 minutes and then is in pain of 12/10 during the rest of the MRIs. I suck up the pain because I need these MRIs but I don't know if I can handle another one. The pain goes from my pinky finger and the finger next to it up my arm to my elbow and into my armpit. I was wondering if I should maybe get an x-ray of the elbow to see if there is some metal in it. (This is all before any contrast and continues with contrast.) So does anyone have any idea on why these MRIs are so painful for me? Thank you for any assistance.
3 Responses
1081992 tn?1389907237
COMMUNITY LEADER
Hi, FireGirlEm, it's likely that you are one of a small percentage of people whose nerves get stimulated by powerful and rapidly switching magnetic fields. That causes the sensation of pain.

This is a known thing. It especially happens when using a high strength magnet (such as a 3T) together with a 'setup' that produces rapidly changing magnetic fields.

"Predicting Magnetostimulation Thresholds in the Peripheral Nervous System using Realistic Body Models"
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-017-05493-9

I would call various places around you where they do MRIs and ask to speak to an MRI tech at each. For some reason, MRI techs are often the nicest people and very helpful. Ask if they are familiar with "painful magnetic stimulation of peripheral nerves" and take it from there.

I would avoid the place that didn't know about this and subjected you to all that pain, more than once -- unless they did know and have convincing reasons why this doesn't apply to you.


Can you post the text of the order for these MRIs? It might be possible to order a lower 'field strength' or make some other accommodation.

Would you mind saying what your long medical history is about? That might be related somewhat also.
1081992 tn?1389907237
COMMUNITY LEADER
This phenomenon has been known for at least 15 years, but there were always measures put in place to try to prevent this magnetic nerve stimulation.

Apparently, it was originally suspected that people with more muscle and less fat than average were more susceptible. I don't know if that has been proven out or not.

We do have much more powerful magnets now, so perhaps the incidence is increasing.
Avatar universal
By any chance was your head flexed backward during the MRI? My head was flexed backward with arms stretched out over head (during breast MRI go figure) and by the time they were done both arms were completely dead-beyond numbness or tingling-I literally could not tell I had arms or hands. Interesting to me is that my shoulder MRIs were done with my arms at my sides (that was a tight fit and hard to inhale/inflate my chest.)
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