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MR Enterography

What is magnetic resonance (MR) enterography?

Magnetic resonance enterography is an imaging test that lets your doctor see detailed pictures of your small intestine. It can pinpoint inflammation, bleeding, and other problems. It is also called MR enterography.

The test uses a magnetic field to create detailed images of your organs. A computer analyzes the images. Before the test, oral and intravenous contrast dyes are given to highlight the small intestine. A drug will also be injected to decrease movement of the bowel which can interfere with the images. 

This is not an X-ray. It does not involve any radiation. The oral contrast doesn’t contain any radioactive material. The images from this test are quite detailed. The procedure may take around 45 minutes.

Why might I need MR enterography?

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 

This test may also help track how well certain treatments are working

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

What are the risks of MR enterography?

MR enterography carries some risks:

  • The magnetic field may change the way any implanted medical devices work.
  • The intravenous contrast may damage the kidneys, especially if your kidneys are not working well.
  • Some people have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye.

There may be other risks, depending upon your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor before the test.

How do I get ready for MR enterography?

Before having this test, you will likely need to:

  • Have any blood tests or other tests ordered by your healthcare provider.
  • Let your healthcare provider know if you are or could be pregnant.
  • Let your healthcare provider know if you have or use any implanted medical devices, such as hearing aids. If you do, 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 your radiologist says it’s OK.
  • Make sure you understand why you are having this test.
  • Ask your doctor if you should stop taking any of your regular medicines or supplements. 
  • Ask your doctor when to stop eating and drinking. Also ask if you should avoid certain foods for this test. You may be asked not to eat or drink for 6 hours before the test.
  • Let your doctor know about any allergies or other health conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease.
  • Talk with your radiologist or doctor about whether you might need a sedative to relax during the test. 
  • Do not wear any jewelry or body piercings, or bring any valuable personal items to the procedure.
  • Do not 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 drive you home, in case you are given a sedative before the procedure.

What happens during MR enterography?

  • You will change into a gown for the test.
  • You may be given a sedative to help you relax.
  • You'll be given water and a contrast material to drink before the test. The test will start about 45 minutes after you start drinking.
  • Medical staff will help position and secure you on a table in the exam room. The more still you are, the better the images will be.
  • A nurse will start an IV so that you can be given fluids and injected contrast material in addition to the swallowed contrast.
  • The MRI machine will scan your body before the contrast dye is injected and afterward. 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.
  • You may need to stay in place while the images are reviewed. If necessary, additional images will be created.

What happens after MR enterography?

Some people have mild nausea, cramping, or diarrhea from the contrast material or other items injected ingested. Let your doctor know if you have any serious or ongoing discomfort.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:

  • The name of the test or procedure
  • The reason you are having the test or procedure
  • What results to expect and what they mean
  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
  • What the possible side effects or complications are
  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure
  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
  • What would  happen if you did not have the test or procedure
  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
  • When and how will you get the results
  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure
Online Medical Reviewer: Bass, Pat F., III, MD, MPH
Online Medical Reviewer: Grossman, Neil, MD
Last Review Date: 10/1/2016
© 2000-2016 The StayWell Company, LLC. 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.