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MR Imaging of small bowel in Crohn's disease

      MR and CT techniques optimized for small bowel imaging are playing an increasing role in the evaluation of small bowel disorders. Several studies have shown the advantage of these techniques over traditional barium fluoroscopic examinations secondary to improvements in spatial and temporal resolution combined with improved bowel distending agents. The preference of MR vs. CT has been geographical and based on expertise and public policy. With the increasing awareness of radiation exposure, there has been a more global interest in implementing techniques that either reduce or eliminate radiation exposure [Brenner DJ, Hall EJ. Computed tomography—an increasing source of radiation exposure. N Engl J Med 2007;357:2277–84]. This is especially important in patients with chronic diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease who may require multiple studies over a lifetime or in studies that require sequential imaging time points such as in the assessment of gastrointestinal motility [Froehlich JM, Patak MA, von Weymarn C, Juli CF, Zollikofer CL, Wentz KU. Small bowel motility assessment with magnetic resonance imaging. J Magn Reson Imaging 2005;21:370–75]. A recent study showed that certain subgroups of patients with Crohn's disease may be exposed to higher doses of radiation: those diagnosed at an early age and those with upper tract inflammation, penetrating disease, requirement of intravenous steroids, infliximab, or multiple surgeries [Desmond AN, O'Regan K, Curran C, et al. Crohn's disease: factors associated with exposure to high levels of diagnostic radiation. Gut 2008;57:1524–29]. Therefore it has been suggested that techniques that can reduce or eliminate radiation exposure should be considered for imaging [Brenner DJ, Hall EJ, op. cit.]. Owing to the excellent soft tissue contrast, direct multiplanar imaging capabilities, new ultrafast breath-holding pulse sequences, lack of ionizing radiation, and availability of a variety of oral contrast agents, MR is well suited to play a critical role in the imaging of small bowel disorders. In this article, we will review the technical issues related to the performance of MR enterography and enteroclysis and discuss the role and controversies of using MR in the assessment of inflammatory bowel disease.
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