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MRI Small Bowel – Patient Information

This patient information is for patients having a small bowel MRI. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI ) is a painless examination which uses a powerful magnetic field without the use of radiation. This procedure takes approximately one and a half hours.  A liquid mixture is given to you to drink to fill the small bowel so that it can be seen well on the scan.

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How do I prepare myself for a small bowel MRI?

You will be asked to have nothing to drink or eat for six hours prior to the appointment. You can only have water, tea or coffee (without milk).

What happens when I attend my appointment?

You will be asked to attend your appointment an hour before your scan is due to begin. This is because we ask you to drink a large volume of clear fluid called an “oral contrast medium” called Klean Prep.

For specific information on this please refer to our patient leaflet on Klean Prep.

Before you begin drinking this liquid the radiographer will go through what you can expect from the scan. During a MRI scan of the small bowel we will also need to give you an MRI dye or contrast, during the scan itself.

The dye is called Dotarem®. Please refer to our specific patient leaflet on Dotarem® for information on this.

You will be asked to drink the clear liquid steadily over 45 minutes.

Asking for your consent

The radiographer will ask you if you are happy for the scan to go ahead (verbal consent) and may only involve the radiographer checking that you are booked for the correct scan. If you do not wish to have the scan or are undecided, please tell the radiographer. It is your decision and you can change your mind at any time. Please remember to ask the radiographer any questions you have at any time.

What happens during the scan?

You will be asked to change into a gown and your belongings will be safely locked away in a patient locker. The key will stay in the room with you. You will be taken into the MRI room and asked to lay down on your back so a cannula can be inserted in your arm. This allows the radiographer to inject the MRI dye (Dotarem®) at the correct time during the scan. This aims to enhance the quality of the images. You will also be given another injection called Buscopan. Buscopan aims to relax the small bowel and the muscles so that the images will be clearer and sharper. (Please refer to our patient leaflet on Buscopan.)

Once you are ready, you will lie on your tummy, on the table, and a camera will be placed on the top of your lower back. While taking the pictures the scanner will be making very loud noises. You will be given some headphones to protect your hearing. The scan involves some breathing instructions. Please refer to the general MRI leaflet for further information.

What are the risks?

Prior to MRI scan you will be asked if you are safe to go in the MRI scanner, only then we will proceed. Patients with cardiac pacemakers, surgical implants such as cochlear implants, or patients who have been through operations within the last six weeks cannot be scanned. If you are pregnant, suffer from diabetes or have renal impairment please declare this at the time of booking.

The MRI dye is very safe, however some people may have a mild allergic reaction to the contrast injection.

Before undertaking the scan you will be asked specific questions about allergies to ensure you are safe to have the dye. Detailed information will be given to you at the time of your scan.

How do I get my results?

Once the scan is complete you will be asked to change. If you are feeling well you are more than welcome to leave straight away, and many people do. We will always offer you to stay in the department for at least 20 minutes after the scan to make sure the drink hasn’t caused you any problems, or loose bowel movements.

Once you are happy, and feel well to leave, you may. The report will be sent to your referring doctor within 48 hours.

Contact us

Please contact the Imaging team about any general concerns on 0207 467 4317. However, if you experience any symptoms of concern please contact your GP or go to your local Emergency Department (A&E).

Your comments and concerns

If you have any questions or concerns about your medicines, please speak to the staff caring for you. For support or advice please speak to your consultant or the Imaging department on 0207 467 4317.

Language and accessible support services

If you need an interpreter or information about your care in a different language or format, please get in touch.