Inner Tube

The MRI followup of my Echocardiogram was scheduled for February 2nd. Given we live an hour and a half away, and it would take a minimum of two hours plus prep time, Jen and I figured it would be an all-day affair. It actually ended up taking closer to three hours, and we started late because the patient ahead of me also needed a bit more time than they expected. We ended up getting home around 6pm as a result, so it was a good call to take the day off.

The MRI itself was the usual affair where an imaging tech continuously chanted these instructions until they became indelibly etched into my brain:

  1. Take a breath.
  2. Let it out.
  3. Hold it out.
  4. Don’t breathe.

All this while being constantly bombarded with sounds from what sounded like an roided-out dot matrix printer.

“NNNNNNRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR,” it croaked between various chunks and whirs.

“EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE,” it screeched as a subtle rivulet of blood began to trickle from my ears.

Ok, the last part is an exaggeration. But unlike past MRIs where they equipped me with headphones, all I got this time were badly fitted earplugs. The cacophony was muted by the slightest amount, but this was easily the noisiest MRI I’ve ever received. They also put me in feet-first instead of head-first, so it’s likely a different model than they were using in Chicago.

One of the scans was a slight variation where a different tech instructed me to take several breaths to prepare, as the next set of images went on for about a minute and a half. I counted. I couldn’t hold my breath that long, but they didn’t complain about the quality of that scan, so mission failed successfully?

They pulled me out of the machine toward the end because the cardiologist overseeing the scans said there was some clouding where he needed to look. They figured I needed a break to stretch and maybe use the restroom, and they were correct. Ironically it wasn’t the images where I held my breath that needed to be redone, but one of the longer ones where they wanted me to just lay there and breath normally for about ten minutes.

So back in I went. That particular series of images is apparently the one they use to make a 3D model, so it was especially important to get right. The second attempt was much better according to the cardiologist, so back I went to the dressing room and eventual freedom around 4pm. For those keeping track, we arrived at the hospital around 10:30am. Jen and I stopped at the cafeteria because I was parched after having nothing to drink since about 9am. I grabbed a small bowl of chili since I was also starving, and then we drove home.

The tech said we probably wouldn’t see the results for weeks, and we figured that was probably right. Much to my surprise, the online portal informed me that the images had been interpreted, and a report was already available. So I logged in with a bit of trepidation to read them over.

As it turns out, my aortic root is still 4.9cm, consistent with the MRI in 2019. I really have no explanation for why it suddenly expanded some time between 2016 and 2019 from 3.9cm to 4.9cm, and then remained at 4.9cm three years later. It had been growing consistently for decades, so what caused it to stop? That’s definitely a question I’ll have to pass by the cardiologist during the followup appointment.

The other question is: what now? They usually recommend surgery at 5cm, and I’m tantalizingly close to that magical threshold. What did I do that stopped the progression, and is it possible to make it shrink somehow? Do I just revert to yearly echos to keep an eye on it, and have another MRI if anything looks suspicious? I guess we’ll see.

Until Tomorrow