What is it?
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Abdomen is a type of scan in Singapore that uses strong magnets and radio waves to visualise structures inside the abdomen/stomach region. It does not involve X-rays, meaning that radiation is not involved and is suitable in pregnancy.
It is useful in diagnosing masses in the liver, intestines, kidneys, pancreas, lymph nodes and other organs within the abdomen, and is able to differentiate tumours from healthy tissue, making it useful in the staging of cancer. It is also able to assess the presence of abnormal fluid or quantify blood flow in abdominal blood vessels.
Why would I need an MRI Abdomen?
Usually, your Gastroenterologist will recommend an MRI to diagnose and monitor conditions such as:
- Tumours in the abdomen
- Liver cirrhosis
- Abnormalities in the bile duct and pancreas
- Inflammatory diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease
How do I prepare for an MRI Abdomen scan?
- You may be advised to fast 4 hours before the exam, with only small sips of water. This is especially so for patients with health conditions like fecal urgency or acid reflux.
- If you plan to take a mild sedative for your MRI Abdomen scan, please have a family member or friend drive you home after the test.
- Make sure to let your gastroenterologist and the technologist know if you have a pacemaker or implantable device.
- Avoid applying deodorants, perfumes or body lotions before the exam. These may contain metals that could interfere with the scans.
What to expect from MRI Scan in Singapore?
Prior to undergoing the procedure, patients will undergo a screening questionnaire about the presence of any metal in their body, contrast allergy, and claustrophobia.
This is because the strong magnetic fields emitted by the MRI machine can cause older generations of pacemakers to malfunction, or cause displacement of any metal inside your body, e.g. implants from knee replacements or screws/plates from prior surgeries. The radiographer will screen your MRI suitability prior to the scan and look out for these.
Similar to a CT scan, some MRIs require the administration of gadolinium contrast, to aid the radiologist in visualising certain areas more clearly.
During the MRI, you will be asked to lie on a table, which will move you into a large tunnel-like machine. The scan usually lasts approximately 30-60 minutes, and a radiographer will be observing you from an adjacent room throughout the scan. The movement of the magnets within the MRI machine produces a certain level of noise, and the narrow tunnel may induce claustrophobia in some. Headphones and light sedation are available upon request.
How long does an MRI Abdomen take?
The test will take about 30-60 minutes.
What’s the difference between an MRI and CT scan for the abdomen?
An MRI Abdomen will produce clearer images compared to the CT scan. This is most useful for visualising the patient’s organs and soft tissues.
Can an MRI Abdomen show bowel problems?
Yes. An MRI Abdomen can help your gastroenterologist examine your digestive system, allowing them to identify bowel problems such as inflammation, bleeding, swollen lymph nodes or other changes in the bowel wall.
Limitations of MRI Scan in Singapore
MRI does not use radiation, and there are no known side effects from the machine’s magnetic fields. Some risks or contraindications to the scan include:
- For patients with gadolinium/dye allergies or severe pre-existing kidney disease, an MRI scan without contrast or alternative imaging modalities may be recommended instead.
- If you have severe claustrophobia, prolonged time spent in the small MRI tunnel may cause distress. Be sure to highlight this to your doctor or the radiographer prior to the scan.
- Luo, Xixi, and Debra Sullivan. “Abdominal MRI Scan: Purpose, Procedure, and Risks.” Healthline, https://www.healthline.com/health/abdominal-mri-scan. Accessed 9 January 2023.
- “Magnetic resonance imaging of the abdomen: applications in the oncology patient.” PubMed, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/10887646/. Accessed 9 January 2023.