Magnetic resonance imaging of the gastrointestinal tract

Diego R. Martin, Raman Danrad, Karin Herrmann, Richard C. Semelka, Shahid M. Hussain

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


Comprehensive bowel examination results from the combined use of T2-weighted single-shot and breath hold T1-weighted gradient echo, minus/plus fat suppression, and gadolinium-enhanced 3D gradient echo (3D VIBE, T1 FAME, 3D THRIVE). Gadolinium-enhanced imaging should be performed dynamically, but the venous 60- to 90-second delayed phase images with fat suppression are generally the most valuable. Removal of fat signal for detection of enhancing normal and abnormal structures is critical. Newly available True-FISP (FIESTA, BFFE) sequences obtained in the 2D form can be very helpful in delineation of bowel wall pathology and overall bowel anatomy, particularly when combined with a water-based intraluminal distending agent. Advantages include rapid acquisition, high signal-to-noise, and motion insensitivity. Generalized protocol for comprehensive evaluation of the entire abdomen and pelvis can be used for the following bowel indications: type and severity of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD); identifying enteric abscesses and fistulae; preoperative staging of malignant neoplasms, including rectal carcinoma; differentiating postoperative and radiation therapy changes from recurrent carcinoma; follow-up evaluation of metastases response to localized ablative or systemic chemotherapy. For improved visualization of bowel wall in dedicated examinations, bowel distension should be achieved using either orally or rectally delivered contrast agents to produce either bright or dark lumen. We have found 2D True-FISP without fat suppression superior to 3D True-FISP and to single-shot echo-train sequences to provide a T2-weighted image of bowel morphology. Strengths include: performed without fat suppression results in the very dark bowel wall being sandwiched between intermediate high signal fat adjacent to bowel serosa, and very high lumen signal from water-distending agent; 2D True-FISP provides motion insensitivity that is lost if 3D is used; True-FISP produces better edge sharpness than single-shot echo-train, higher contrast, and resists flow void artifacts commonly seen with single-shot echo-train imaging combined with a water distending agent. Drawbacks of this technique include: artifacts related to extreme sensitivity to field inhomogeneity, including air-soft tissue interfaces at the patient skin surface, and from retained bowel gas; retained bowel gas is dark against dark bowel wall, impairing bowel wall assessment; and True-FISP does not provide sensitivity for edema, which is superior on single-shot echo-train imaging. Small/large bowel indications for MRI include: inflammatory bowel disease, infectious disease including abscess evaluation or for appendicitis, inflammatory conditions including ischemia, and partial obstruction, malnutrition, and neoplasm search.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)77-98
Number of pages22
JournalTopics in Magnetic Resonance Imaging
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2005


  • Colonography
  • Crohn disease
  • Enteroclysis
  • Gastrointestinal
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • MRI
  • Malignancy
  • Neoplasm
  • Small bowel follow through
  • Ulcerative colitis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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