• It’s Complicated

What is a Small Bowel MRI ?

A few months ago, I had a small bowel MRI, with contrast, due to some gastro problems I’ve been experiencing for a long while now. Before the test, and any other test i ever have, i like to do some research on what to expect. I usually like this on a personal level and not from the NHS, so i can actually know what’s done and how. I didn’t really find anything helpful which is why I’m hoping this post will help someone !


What is a small bowel MRI ?

A small bowel MRI is a way to examine your bowels using strong magnets, so you’re able to see inside better and have detailed images. To make it more clearer, contrast dye is give via a cannula and asked to drink Moviprep. Prior to the scan, you are required to fast for 6 hours and are able to drink clear fluids until 2 hours before the scan.


Movi-prep tastes awful. I was allowed to mix in some lemon squash, which helped with the taste and made it bearable, but it still isn‘t pleasant. It is a laxative and so it causes you to empty your bowels (and it isn’t nice). It is very helpful and necessary to have a toilet around at all times ! Due to the amount of times you need to visit the toilet, it’ll be painful and will sting/burn. I read afterwards, that it is helpful to keep sudocream or something equivalent to apply in the area.


As I have awful nausea I wasn’t able to finish the jug but had enough, plus a lot of water, for them to be able to do the scan effectively. After the movi-prep, the cannula is inserted into your arm and you are asked to lay down on the scan table. It is important to tell them about any conditions you have. Since i have a kidney problem there was a mini debate going on if i should have the scan or not, but was allowed in the end as my eGFR was borderline and i don‘t have kidney disease, per say. The scan itself is about 1 hour as they take multiple images and ask you to inhale, exhale and hold your breathe from time to time. They also give you Buscopan via an injection. I’m not allowed this due to having a heart problem (PoTS and IST) and take medication for it. The buscopan is to slow your bowels so they can be photographed clearly. As I couldn’t have the injection, the radiographer explained my images may not be as clear.


Since I have mast cell activation syndrome I wasn’t sure if I’d react to the dye or not. The dye used was Gadolinium contrast. The radiographer has medications on stand by, in the MRI room, in case i have a reaction. Luckily i didn’t !

After the scan, you can get changed into your own clothes, have your cannula taken out, and after 10-15 mins, are free to leave.


I hope this helps someone. If you’ve never had an MRI before, for any reason, don’t worry. They aren’t scary, although can be quite loud. You are usually offered headphones or ear plugs to help with the noise.