Small Bowel MRI

What is magnetic resonance small bowel MRI?

Magnetic resonance small bowel is an imaging test that lets your doctor see detailed pictures of your small intestine. It can help identify inflammation, bleeding, and other problems.
The test uses magnets and sound to create detailed images of your organs. Before the test, oral contrast dye is given to highlight the small intestine.
You may also be given an intravenous contrast injection of gadolinium. This helps to give more detail by highlighting the soft tissues. Sometimes we give a drug called Buscopan to help slow down the movement of the bowel.
MRI is not an X-ray. It does not involve any radiation. The oral contrast and intravenous contrast doesnít contain any radioactive material. The images from this test are quite detailed. The procedure may take around 90 minutes from start to finish.

Why do I need an small bowel MRI?

This test may help find:
  • Internal bleeding
  • Areas of irritation and swelling
  • Abscesses, which are pus filled pockets, in the intestinal walls
  • Small tears in the intestine wall
  • Blockages
  • Tumours
This test may also help track how well certain treatments are working.

MR small bowel is often recommended when you have Crohn's disease. Crohn's disease tends to affect young people, who are at greater risk of problems from repeated radiation exposure.
MR small bowel can help avoid unnecessary X-rays. The procedure is a better test to view soft-tissue problems.

Are there any risks?

There is no risk of exposure to radiation during an MRI procedure.

Because of the strong magnet in an MRI scanner, MRI cannot be used if you have:
  • Implanted pacemaker or cardiac defibrillator
  • Some older intracranial aneurysm clips
  • Cochlear implants
  • Certain prosthetic devices
  • Implanted medicine infusion pumps or medicine ports
  • Neurostimulators
  • Bone-growth stimulators
  • Certain intrauterine contraceptive devices
  • Any other type of iron-based metal implants
  • Tattoos or body piercings
  • Internal metal objects or fragments, such as bullets or shrapnel, surgical clips, pins, plates, screws, metal sutures, or wire mesh.

Tell your clinician if you are pregnant or think you may be. In general, there is no known risk of MRI in pregnancy. But in the first trimester, MRI should only be used to look at very important problems or suspected problems.
If contrast dye is used, there is a risk for allergic reaction to the dye. Tell your provider if you are allergic or sensitive to medicines, contrast dye, or iodine.
Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a very rare but serious complication of MRI contrast use in people with kidney disease or kidney failure. If you have a history of kidney disease, kidney failure, kidney transplant, liver disease, or are on dialysis, be sure to tell the MRI radiographer before getting the contrast dye.
There may be other risks depending on your specific health condition. Be certain The radiographer knows about all of your health conditions.
Tell the radiographer doing the test if you:
  • Have ever had an imaging test (like MRI or CT) with contrast dye
  • Are allergic to contrast dye or any medicines
  • Have a serious health problem. This includes diabetes or kidney disease
  • Are pregnant or may be pregnant or are breastfeeding
  • Have any implanted device or metal clips or pins in your body

How do I get ready for small bowel MRI?

Before having a small bowel MRI, you may need to:

  • Have blood tests or other tests ordered by the clinician
  • Let your healthcare professional know if you are or could be pregnant
  • Let the Radiographer know if you have or use any implanted medical devices, such as hearing aids. If you have an implant that cannot be removed, you may not be able to have this test. For example, if you have an implanted defibrillator or pacemaker, a cochlear ear implant, a clip for a brain aneurysm, or a metal coil in your blood vessels, you should not have this test or enter the MRI area unless the Radiographer says itís OK
  • You may be asked not to eat or drink for 6 hours before the test
  • Don't wear any jewellery or body piercings, or bring any valuable personal items to the procedure
  • Don't carry any metal objects into the exam room. This includes hairpins and metal zippers
  • If you have sensitive hearing, ask for earplugs to wear during the procedure. The MRI machine can make loud noises that some people may find disturbing
  • If you can go home the same day. Make sure you have an adult who can accompanying or drive you home if you take a sedative for the procedure.

What happens during small bowel MRI?

  • You will change into a gown for the test
  • You'll be given water and a contrast material to drink before the test. The test will start about 60 minutes after you start drinking
  • The radiographer will help position and secure you on a table in the exam room. The more still you stay, the better the images will be
  • A Radiographer or imaging assistant  will insert an IV cannula so that you can be given the necessary fluids and injected contrast material
  • This is in addition to the swallowed contrast
  • The MRI machine will scan your body before the contrast dye is injected and again after the injection. You will be alone in the room, but you can talk to the people operating the machine. The machine may make some humming, bumping, or pinging noises as it scans you. This is normal
  • You will be asked to briefly hold your breath at different stages throughout the scan
  • You may need to stay in place while the images are reviewed. If necessary, additional images will be created.

What happens after a small bowel MRI?

Some people have mild nausea, cramping, or diarrhoea from the contrast material injected ingested. This will usually pass after an hour or two.
Last updated17 Feb 2021
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