Small bowel MRI with Sorbitol

I had a small bowel MRI today. I was a bit nervous, since I haven’t done one before. I’ve had a CT scan, a barium flow, two colonoscopies, and probably quite a few other tests, but I can’t remember ever having an MRI.

Before the procedure

My appointment was at 1:30 pm today, and my instructions were to not eat anything after midnight last night, and to only drink clear fluids this morning. I slept in as late as I could, and I didn’t really feel hungry until about lunch time. I drank some water this morning, but I didn’t want to drink too much, because I knew I’d have to drink a lot more before the procedure.

Drinking the Sorbitol

At the hospital, the MRI technician told me about the procedure, asked all the standard medical questions, and made sure I didn’t have any bits of metal on my clothing or body. Then I had to start drinking the Sorbitol mixed with water. It looked and tasted like water, but with just a hint of something sweet, which makes sense, because Sorbitol is a sweetener. There were three doses, each taken twenty minutes or so apart. Each dose was about the size of a large styrofoam cup, and I drank it with a straw. I got each dose down in about five minutes. While I was drinking the stuff, I got to watch a movie; I chose Aladdin. I’m not sure if the movie thing is specific to my hospital or not, since it’s primarily a children’s hospital. I don’t quite remember what the point of drinking the Sorbitol was; it has laxative properties, but I think she said it was meant to coat my insides or something. I was worried about how much I had to drink, since I haven’t been good at drinking large amounts of fluid in the past when I’ve had my colonoscopies, but this was no problem. At the very end of the last dose, I gagged a bit, but I was fine. The technician said to just get down as much as I could.

Between the second and third dose, the technician put an IV in my arm. Then, another guy came in and put something in the IV; I think it was called Buscopan. He said it would stop my bowels from moving during the MRI. My heart started beating faster after they put the stuff in, but that only lasted a little while.

The procedure

Then it was time for the MRI. I laid down and went in feet first. There were pillows below my head and knees. They had two boards on top of me, which the technician said were cameras. I had earplugs in my ears, a ball in my hand that I could squeeze in an emergency, and headphones and goggles so that I could watch a movie during the procedure; I picked Cinderella this time (and they even fast-forwarded through the credits at the beginning, which I thought was very considerate). I didn’t pay much attention to the movie, but it took my mind off the procedure, and I’m glad they had that.

The technician’s voice would come on the headphones and tell me what was going on and what I had to do. I had to breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, and hold it for fifteen seconds, then twenty seconds, then thirty seconds. I did that a few times each. When I was supposed to hold my breath for thirty seconds, she said to just hold my breath as long as I could, then breathe slowly after that. At one point, she said to just breathe normally, and it would be very loud for about four minutes, and the machine would shake.

Soon after I had gone into the MRI machine, the technician asked me if I felt like I needed to burp. I said no, and she said my stomach had a lot of air in it. I’m kind of glad she noticed that, because for years I’ve occasionally gotten this sensation of air bubbles in my throat — usually when I get nervous, but sometimes for no reason — and maybe that has something to do with it, so maybe they can figure out why it happens.

Halfway through the procedure, they put some more Buscopan in the IV, since they said the effect doesn’t last very long. They also put in some contrast dye. Then I had to hold my breath again a few times, and the procedure was over by the end of the Cinderelly song. The whole procedure took about thirty minutes.

Going home

Afterwards, I sat down, and the guy took the IV out and had me hold some cotton to my arm so that it wouldn’t bruise. We went to get my mom, and the guy said the doctor would have my results in seven to ten days, and then we left. They said I might have blurry vision for up to forty-five minutes afterwards, but I didn’t notice that.

I was quiet the whole way home because I was tired and hungry and still nervous. While my mom was backing the car into our driveway, I told her to stop, and I got out and threw up. I felt much better after that, but I’ve had a sore throat ever since. I also went to the bathroom a few times, but I wasn’t on the toilet all night.

All in all, it was a pretty painless experience. I just felt tired for the rest of the day and was quite hungry until I got home.