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MRI of the small bowel

Date last reviewed: December 2019

For review: December 2021

Ref: B-264/Imaging/MW/MRI of the small bowel v4

PDF:  MRI of the small bowel [pdf] 181KB




Failure to do so may mean your scan will be postponed.


What is MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of the small bowel?

This is a MRI examination of the small bowel and abdomen. Before your scan you will be asked to drink a liquid called Mannitol. You will be asked to drink this liquid over 45 minutes to give it time to travel around the bowel. You are asked to drink this liquid to enable us to get good images of your bowel. After you have had your drink you will be asked to lie on the MRI table for approximately 20 minutes. We will take a series of pictures, with you holding your breath for each set.

During the scan you will be required to have an injection in your arm of Buscopan (bowel relaxant) and MRI dye.


Preparation before your MRI scan of the small bowel

In order to achieve a successful examination, your bowel must be correctly prepared. We ask you to have nothing to eat for 6 hours before your appointment time (clear fluids only). You will be asked to remove all your magnetic objects and change into a gown.


What if I have Diabetes?

It is particularly important that you maintain your normal carbohydrate intake in order that to continue with your insulin injection or tablet dosage. We recommend Lucozade® or dilute Ribena®. Please replace sweet foods or drinks with diabetic equivalents. Test your blood glucose level regularly.

If you wish to discuss how to manage your diabetes before or after your appointment please contact the Diabetes Specialist Nurse on 01752 792962.

On the day of your MRI scan examination, take your normal dose of insulin and a sufficient amount of Lucozade® or Ribena®. You should also receive an early morning appointment and if you haven’t, please ring the MRI Appointments Clerk on 01752 439282.


Are there any risks / side effects?

Mannitol (drink)

Mannitol is a sugar based solution that has a mild laxative effect. This may cause you to have mild diarrhoea for a few hours after the scan. You may wish to take this into account when planning what you will do in the couple of hours immediately after the scan.


There is a small risk of aggravating pre-existing glaucoma or certain heart conditions with a Buscopan injection (which is necessary to relax the bowel). You will therefore be asked about any relevant medical history before your examination.

Some people may have short lasting sight problems (blurred vision) when given Buscopan. If this happens to you, please wait until your sight returns to normal before driving or using any tools or machines.

Other common side effects of Buscopan include a dry

mouth and an increased heartrate. These should only last a short time, but if you experience either of these, or blurred vision, please stay in the department until the side effects have worn off.

If, once you have left the department, you experience a painful red eye with reduced vision or are unable to pass urine please see a doctor immediately.

MRI Contrast agent

You may be given an injection of a gadolinium based MRI dye during the test. You will be asked relevant medical questions before your test.

It is very unusual to experience any side-effects to the MRI dye.

What should I do after my examination?

You can leave the department 20 minutes after your scan. Please eat and drink normally. The results from the scan will be sent to the doctor who asked for the examination.

Please do not ring the X-Ray department for your results.

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