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Magnetic Resonance (MR) Enterogram: About This Test

What is it?

A magnetic resonance (MR) enterogram is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of your small intestine. It's a type of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

When you have this test, you lie on a table. The table moves into the MRI machine. The machine takes pictures, which are reviewed on a computer in another room. This test isn't an X-ray. No radiation is used.

Why is it done?

An MR enterogram lets your doctor see the lining of your small intestine. It can help your doctor look for causes of swelling, blockages, and bleeding when the results of other tests are not clear.

How do you prepare for this test?

  • You may be asked to not eat or drink for several hours before the test.
  • Tell your doctor if you get nervous in tight spaces. You may get a medicine to help you relax. If you think you'll get this medicine, be sure you have someone to take you home.

How is the test done?

Before the test

  • Remove all metal objects. These may include hearing aids, dentures, jewellery, watches, and hairpins.
  • Wear loose clothing with no metal fasteners. You may be asked to take off all or most of your clothes and change into a gown.
  • An MRI can cause a burn with some medicine patches. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are wearing a patch.
  • You will be asked to drink a liquid that contains contrast material (dye). The dye helps the doctors get better pictures of your small intestine. You'll also drink fluids, such as water, to help make your bowels bigger for the test.
  • A tube called an I.V. may be put into your arm. The I.V. may be used to give you fluids and medicine. This may include medicine to keep your bowel still to allow better pictures. During the test, more dye may be added through the I.V.
  • Before the test starts, you will wait awhile for the dye that you drank to get into your small intestine.

During the test

  • You will lie on a table that's part of the MRI scanner.
  • The table will slide into the space that contains the magnet.
  • Inside the scanner, you will hear a fan and feel air moving. You may hear tapping, thumping, or snapping noises. You may be given earplugs or headphones to reduce the noise.
  • You will be asked to hold still during the scan. You may be asked to hold your breath for short periods.
  • You may be alone in the scanning room. But a technologist will watch through a window and talk with you during the test.

How long does it take?

The time to get ready and the test itself may take 2 to 3 hours. You may spend 15 to 30 minutes inside the machine.

How does it feel?

  • An MR enterogram doesn't hurt. You won't feel anything from the machine's magnetic field.
  • The dye may give you a metallic taste in your mouth. Some people feel sick to their stomach or get a headache.
  • If you need an I.V., you may feel a quick sting or pinch and some coolness when the I.V. is started.

What are the risks?

If you breastfeed and are concerned about whether the contrast material used in this test is safe, talk to your doctor. Most experts believe that very little dye passes into breast milk and even less is passed on to the baby. But if you are concerned, you can stop breastfeeding for up to 24 hours after the test. During this time, you can give your baby breast milk that you stored before the test. Don't use the breast milk you pump in the 24 hours after the test. Throw it out.

What happens after the test?

  • If you weren't given medicine to help you relax, you won't need time to recover. You can go back to your normal activities and diet right away. If you did get medicine to help you relax, you will need someone to drive you home.
  • You may have nausea, diarrhea, or belly cramps from the dye. These side effects usually are mild and go away. If they don't, talk to your doctor.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

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