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CT and MR enterography in evaluating small bowel diseases: when to use which modality?

Gabriele Masselli, Gianfranco Gualdi
Abdominal Imaging 2013, 38 (2): 249-59
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 advantages of these techniques over traditional barium fluoroscopic examinations due 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. 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 assessment of gastrointestinal motility. MRI has many properties that make it well suited to imaging of the small bowel: the lack of ionizing radiation, the improved tissue contrast that can be obtained by using a variety of pulse sequences, and the ability to perform real time functional imaging. Moreover, MR modalities allow visualization of the entire bowel, without overlapping bowel loops, as well as the detection of both intra- and extraluminal abnormalities.The intra- and extraluminal MR findings, combined with contrast enhancement and functional information, help to make an accurate diagnosis and consequently characterize small bowel diseases.

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