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MRI of the Abdomen: About This Test

Organs in the abdomen

What is it?

MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) is a test that uses a magnetic field and pulses of radio wave energy to make pictures of the organs and structures inside the body. An MRI of the abdomen (belly) can give your doctor information about your liver, pancreas, and kidneys and other structures in the belly.

When you have an MRI, you lie on a table and the table moves into the MRI machine.

Why is this test done?

An MRI of the belly can help find problems such as tumours and infections. It can also find bleeding and a blocked tube or stones in the tube that carries bile from the liver to the gallbladder (bile duct).

How can you prepare for the test?

For some MRI pictures of the belly, 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 to arrange a ride home. It may be unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.

What happens during the test?

  • You may have contrast material (dye) put into your arm through a tube called an IV.
  • 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 the test take?

The test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes but can take as long as 2 hours.

What are the risks of an MRI of the abdomen?

There are no known harmful effects from the strong magnetic field used for an MRI. But the magnet is very powerful. It may affect any metal implants or other medical devices you have.

Risks from contrast material

Contrast material that contains gadolinium may be used in this test. But for most people, the benefit of its use in this test outweighs the risk. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have kidney problems or are pregnant.

There is a slight chance of an allergic reaction if contrast material is used during the test. But most reactions are mild and can be treated using medicine.

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?

  • You will probably be able to go home right away, depending on the reason for the test.
  • You can go back to your usual activities right away.

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 call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to keep a list of the medicines you take. Ask your doctor when you can expect to have your test results.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.