February 22, 2024

The waiting room had a delightful scent and resembled an upscale hotel with high wood ceilings. The room had free seltzer and provided many health books, one with a questionable title, “Super Human: The Bulletproof Plan to Age Backward and Maybe Even Live Forever.” After donning Prenuvo scrubs, Zach, a bearded technician, led me to a large room with an MRI machine that looked like a giant white doughnut.

Zach explained that the clinic had become exceptionally busy after Kim Kardashian’s Instagram post, gaining hundreds of thousands of new followers. After a period of panic and claustrophobia, Zach helped to relax me and used headphones, a mirror, and a television to make the experience more tolerable. I even got to listen to Taylor Swift as I was being scanned.

In speaking with others about the preventive MRI, most expressed relief and happiness with the experience. Some found the scan gave them a feeling of control over their health, and almost everyone would recommend the scan to others. However, these were individuals who were early adopters with disposible income and access to ample doctors.

Despite the positive experiences of patients, it is difficult to objectively measure the effect of preventive scanning. While Prenuvo claimed to make half a million clinical findings, they were vague about specifics. The company reported around 5% of people were alerted to “potentially lifesaving” findings, but would not disclose how many of their patients had incidental findings. This made it difficult to assess their claims about early detection.

Medical professionals and tech enthusiasts disagree on the usefulness of proactive imaging, with the possibility of frequent scans leading to overdiagnosis and stressful repeat visits. The nurse practitioner enlisted to help explain my results reassured me that the results were actually a good outcome, as they could indicate benign growths.

Although these types of MRI scans give patients a sense of control, medical professionals are less certain about their overall impact. Despite my own experience, I went from being healthy to being a patient, which, for me, was a negative outcome. Information about health can directly impact how good or bad we feel and how we make decisions, and having access to know about our health isn’t always a good thing, especially when it leads to unnecessary medical follow-ups.