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My small bowel MRI (MRE) with lactulose experience on the NHS

I had to wait about 4 months from the day it was scheduled, I'm still waiting for results 2 weeks later. So I had to fast from water and food for 4 hours prior. I got in and did a very long questionnaire (it standard for MRI safety) and had any questions I had, answered. Then I had my cannula placed in (if you're having contrast and/or buscopan then you'll have a peripheral line place in your arm or had. Then I was given about 60 mls of lactulose to drink as quickly as I could, it was incredibly sweet, (at my hospital it used to be 1.5-2.0 litres of klean prep, and is still used today for MRE prep in some hospitals. Intially in the letter I got, it said I was going to have klean prep) Then I had to drink 1 litre of water within an hour. I thought this was going to be hard because I have gastroparesis (it would be hard for some to drink such a volume of water in that amount of time) but I just had a small cup every 10-15 minutes and sipped it very slowly and that worked. 20 minutes into drinking the water I began to feel a stange sensation in my stomach. Basically like I might have diarrhoea later. Then I went in to change my jeans (they had metal in them) into these very comfy, blue pyjama looking things, I kept my own t-shirt (in some hospitals it's practice to wear a gown if you have a cannula). I then had my cannula attached to line to the machine that injects you. At this point you may have buscopan given through your cannula, this is to stop intestinal movements for a clearer picture. I was not given it due to the possibility of having POTS. I then laid on the table on my front, with my arms straight out (you will probably have to be on your front if you can tolerate doing that, this is to stop too much movement of your abdomen during your breathing) I had a pillow under my chin and chest. I then had these foam panels strapped to my back and legs, this secured me, but didn't make me feel tied down. I was given access to a button to press if I needed the scan to stop at any point. The scan then started, it took about 25 minutes, at about 20 points I was told by the machine to breathe in then out and to hold my breath for intervals of up to 20 seconds. This was kinda hard to do, so you should practice this if you're going to have one. About 15 minutes into the scan the dye was injected through the line and my arm felt slightly cold but nothing major, it was only about 30 mls of liquid, and this stuff unlike CT contrast does not have any side effects like the sensation you've urinated on yourself. After the scan I was told the images were clear enough and the scan wouldn't need to be repeated. I was told I could go and could eat and drink as normally as I would like. About 3 hours after the scan I had diarrhoea 3 times, this wasn't too bad as I hadn't been flaring for at least 3 weeks at this point. If you're going to have a small bowel MRI I would definitely ask about having lactulose instead of clean prep as the side effects are way less. Personally with klean prep it takes 10 minutes to have a lot of loose bowel movements after drinking a glass, so I don't know how I would've made it through the scan if it was a colonscopy prep.

So yeah that was my experience of a small bowel MRI (MRE). Hope it was valuable and informative for anyone who is going to have one at some point.


Well-known member
A very good description of the procedure Lee.It will be most helpful to those who are waiting for an MRI.I had a litre of "stuff" to drink and half an hour to do so.Can't say what it was though as this was four years or so ago.Alas almost at the end, "I had to leave the table to clean up".The staff were very good about it.I expect it's a regular occurance with bowel patients My waiting times were similar to yours but I waited about six weeks for results.I hope you are keeping well..