When you have IBD, your doctor may send you for magnetic resonance enterography (MRE). This is a very important test because it helps your doctor see how your small and large intestines are responding to treatment. An MRE is a 30 to 60 minute scan that takes lots of pictures of your small and large intestines, liver and bile ducts.

The MRE is performed on a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanner using a magnetic field, not X-rays or radiation. The scanner is a really big magnet that looks like a donut with a hole in the middle, forming a tunnel. You lie on a table, and the table slides in and out of the tunnel. The magnetic field is invisible, so you won’t be able to feel or see it.


You will not be allowed to eat or drink for about 6 hours before your MRE – an empty tummy helps prepare your bowel for the scan.

There is one exception: when you arrive, a nurse will put in an intravenous line and ask you to start drinking a sweet liquid that will help expand your bowel.

You will start drinking:

• your first cup one (1) hour before your scan
• your second cup thirty (30) minutes before your scan
• your third cup just before your scan.

Try to be active and move around between each cup you drink, this will help the liquid slosh through your bowel.


During the scan, an antispasmodic (Buscopan or glucagon) is given intravenously to stop the bowel from moving, and
a contrast agent (gadolinium) is given to help any diseased bowel to show up on the MRE. Although you will be on your own when you are lying in the scanner, the radiologist will be able to see, hear and speak to you all the time, so you can ask questions.

You will most likely be asked to lie on your back and have special pads (coils) placed over your tummy to help take the pictures. The scanner gets pretty noisy, so we will give you earplugs or headphones to wear.

Each set of pictures takes around five minutes and this is when we will need you to lie really still. Sometimes we’ll ask you to hold your breath (not for the whole five minutes!) so we can take clear pictures. A great way to prepare for your scan at home is to practice laying still and holding your breath.


After all the pictures have been taken, about 1,000 in total, a radiologist will carefully look over your images to see what is going on with your bowel and send this report to your gastroenterologist.

To take a virtual MRE tour, watch this video we supported in partnership with SickKids!

To read more articles, visit the latest edition of our magazine, You, Me and IBD.


We thank Dr Greer for her contribution in helping create this valuable MRE resource. Dr. Mary-Louise Greer is a paediatric radiologist trained in Brisbane (Australia) and Toronto. She is the co-clinical lead in body MRI at Sick Kids, and has a special interest in IBD.