Magnetic resonance enterography (MRE) is a non-invasive imaging technique used to evaluate your small intestine, specifically for conditions such as Crohn’s disease.

MRE provides detailed images of your gastrointestinal (GI) tract using a combination of magnetic fields and radio waves.

Doctors commonly use MRE to diagnose Crohn’s, monitor its progression, and assess response to treatment. MRE testing for Crohn’s disease helps doctors visualize the extent and severity of inflammation, identify strictures (narrowed areas), and detect complications such as abscesses and fistulas.

By providing clear images of your small intestine, MRE enables doctors to make accurate diagnoses, plan appropriate treatment strategies, and evaluate the effectiveness of interventions over time.

Read on to learn more about the MRE for Crohn’s.

Before the procedure, you’ll talk with your doctor about your medical history, including any allergies or previous reactions to contrast agents used in imaging tests.

A doctor may instruct you to fast for 4–6 hours before the MRE for Crohn’s. This will allow for better imaging and more precise results.

You may need to adjust your medication schedule under the guidance of a doctor. Some medications may interfere with the MRE.

Wear comfortable, metal-free clothing and inform a doctor about any allergies and past reactions to contrast agents. Be prepared for the insertion of a small intravenous (IV) line for contrast solution during the procedure.

If you’re scheduled to undergo an MRE test for Crohn’s, understanding what to expect during the procedure can help alleviate concerns or anxiety.

Before the procedure

  1. You’ll remove any metallic objects or jewelry, as they can interfere with the magnetic fields during the test. This includes belts, watches, earrings, and body piercings.
  2. You will be asked to change into a hospital gown and remove any additional clothing or accessories that may interfere with the MRE.

During the procedure

  1. A healthcare professional will administer a contrast agent (dye) to enhance the visibility of your GI tract during the scan. This is usually administered through an IV line inserted into a vein in your hand or arm.
  2. You will lie flat on your back on a movable table that slides into the MRI machine. It’s important to remain still during the scan to ensure clear images. While the machine operates, you may hear various normal noises that should not cause discomfort.
  3. In some cases, such as if you have claustrophobia or have trouble staying still, a healthcare professional may administer a sedative. This will help you relax during the procedure.
  4. The duration of an MRE can vary but is generally 45–60 minutes.

After the procedure, you can immediately resume your usual activities and diet.

However, if you received sedation during the MRE, you will need someone to drive you home. Also, consider avoiding activities that require coordination or judgment until you fully recover.

You may experience minor side effects after the MRE, such as abdominal pain, diarrhea, and a metallic taste in your mouth. These effects are generally temporary and should resolve on their own.

A doctor will review the results with you at a follow-up appointment to discuss any findings and potential treatment options, if necessary.

The accuracy of the MRE test for Crohn’s is high, with reported sensitivity and specificity rates of around 90%. MRE can provide detailed images of your GI tract, allowing doctors to detect inflammation, strictures, and other characteristic features of Crohn’s disease.

Possible risks include allergic reactions to contrast dye and, in rare cases, kidney problems due to the dye. However, MRE does not involve ionizing radiation, and this reduces radiation-related risks. If you have a higher risk of side effects, your doctor may ask you to take a kidney function test before the MRE.

The cost of MRE testing may vary, but it’s typically more expensive than a traditional MRI scan. Insurance plans may cover MRE, especially when it’s medically necessary for diagnosing or managing Crohn’s disease. Government plans such as Medicare may also cover MRE if it meets specific criteria.

While MRE is a commonly used imaging technique, alternative methods can also help diagnose Crohn’s disease.

MR enterography vs. colonoscopy

MRE uses imaging techniques to visualize your small intestine, allowing doctors to identify inflammation and complications. Colonoscopy examines your colon and allows for direct visualization and tissue sampling.

MRE scan vs. MRI

While both tests use magnetic fields to produce detailed images, MRE focuses specifically on your GI tract, allowing for the visualization of inflammation and other Crohn’s-related complications. An MRI can be performed on different body parts.

Here are some frequently asked questions about MRE.

What is an MRE test?

An MRE is a non-invasive medical imaging procedure that uses magnetic resonance imaging to create detailed images of your GI tract.

What does an MRE test show?

An MRE test can show clear images of your GI tract, which can help doctors identify inflammation in your digestive system, strictures in your intestines, and complications such as abscesses.

What can MR enterography diagnose?

MRE can help doctors diagnose GI conditions, including Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, small bowel tumors, and complications such as strictures and fistulas.

How long does it take to get MRE results?

MRE results are typically available a few days to a week after the procedure. The exact turnaround time can vary depending on the healthcare facility and the urgency of the case.

MRE is essential in diagnosing and managing Crohn’s disease. This non-invasive imaging procedure offers detailed images of the GI tract, which can help doctors identify inflammation, strictures, and complications.

Both MRE and endoscopy are diagnostic tools that can help doctors diagnose GI conditions. Consider discussing these options with a doctor to determine the most suitable diagnostic tool for you.