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Defecography can be done by fluoroscopic X-ray or by MRI. Both kinds of imaging can visualize the inside mechanics of your body as you poop. X-ray is more commonly used, but some people may need to avoid the small radiation exposure that it produces.
A fluoroscopic X-ray is like a video X-ray. Instead of taking isolated snapshots, fluoroscopy passes a continuous X-ray beam through the body, which produces continuous images on a screen in real-time. So rather than developing photographs, healthcare providers can view a video of your organs in action.
MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) works with radio waves and a magnetic field. Metal coils throughout the machine produce a magnetic field through electric current, which moves hydrogen atoms in your body. As they move back into place, they transmit a signal that the machine interprets through radio waves, producing an image on a computer.
Your healthcare provider will carefully record your medical history, including relevant surgeries and conditions, medications that you take and implants that you may have. They’ll ask you to describe in detail exactly what happens when you poop.
Then they will describe the procedure in detail and explain how you can collaborate during the test to help achieve the clearest results. The success of the test will depend on your cooperation.
Your healthcare provider may give you an enema to take at home to clear out your bowels before the test. They may also ask you to modify your diet, medications and water intake before the test. Guidelines vary, so follow the advice of your provider.
Whether you are taking a fluoroscopic X-ray defecography or an MRI defecography, both tests require some kind of contrast agent to highlight the internal organs that your healthcare provider wants to see. That means the contrast agent has to get inside of you before the test.
To visualize the last part of your digestive tract — the colon, rectum and anus — your healthcare team will prepare the agent (barium sulfate) as a paste to put into your anus. You’ll receive the barium enema immediately before the test. However, your healthcare provider may want to see other organs that the enema can’t reach.
If they need to see your small intestine, you might have to swallow a contrast solution. You might have to take it several hours before the test to give it enough time to travel through your digestive tract. Sometimes they may also need to see the wall between your vagina and anus. In this case, they may apply barium paste to your vagina.
After changing into a hospital gown, you’ll proceed to the testing room, where you’ll lie on a table. Your healthcare team will inject barium paste into your anus with something resembling a caulking gun. You may feel mild bloating or cramping from the enema. When your anus is full, you will feel the natural urge to defecate (poop), and you’ll be ready for the test.
If you are in an X-ray machine or an open MRI machine, your table will tilt vertically and a special toilet will be placed beneath you. You’ll sit on the toilet as you normally would. Both machines have an open and airy design to prevent any feelings of claustrophobia. If you are in a traditional MRI machine, which is more like a tube, you’ll remain horizontal on the table and poop into an adult diaper. A blanket with metal coils inside may be placed over you.
Some people feel claustrophobic inside a traditional MRI machine. You can ask for sedative medication to help you relax. The machine is well-lit and air-conditioned, and you can speak to your technician through an intercom if you need to. Both open and traditional MRI machines make loud popping and clicking noises while they record images. You will be offered earplugs or headphones in advance.
The radiologist operating the test equipment will give you instructions from outside the unit. They'll tell you when to squeeze, hold and relax your muscles as they record images. You’ll have to make sure to use enough force so that the technician can clearly see how your muscles engage when you push. You’ll also have to remain very still while each series of pictures is taken — usually for less than a minute.
The whole thing takes about 30 to 60 minutes. It might feel demanding or embarrassing, but it isn’t painful.
After the test, you’ll be brought to a private restroom where you can wash up. You may continue to see the white, chalky barium in your poop for the next day or so. You can resume your normal activities and diet immediately.
The small amount of radiation exposure from X-ray is considered safe, as long as it isn’t a regular occurrence. MRI poses no risks or side effects. If you are pregnant, it's standard practice to avoid both tests, if possible, even though the risk of harm to the fetus is very small.
How To Prepare For An MRI Exam
Prepare for an MRI scan by learning what not to wear, since some materials react with the magnets inside the MRI and can cause blurry scans or injury. Learning about clothing restrictions helps prevent harm and makes for a safe, easy visit.
No. Some wigs contain trace amounts of metal from wig clips, hairpins or adjustable straps. Many types of extensions also contain metallic particles. The MRI’s powerful magnetic field causes metal objects and particles to heat up, which can lead to burns.
Be aware that products like hairspray can interact with the MRI, as well. Even if you avoid burns, the resulting images could come out blurry from the presence of metal — which means you may have to redo the scan.
No. Makeup includes various minerals and synthetic colorants containing metal. Eyeshadow, lipstick and skin cream possess the highest amounts of these substances. Leaving it on during an MRI can run the risk for burns or blurry images.
Forgo the makeup on your appointment day, or wipe it off before you enter the scan room. Leave your nails unpainted, too. Nail polish also contains metallic particles that could interfere with scanning.
Yes. You can wear clothes during an MRI, but this depends on the fabric. Avoid athleisure clothing, as some brands weave metal fibers such as silver into the fabric. Compression wear or tight clothes aren’t recommended.
Hoodies, jeans, and jackets often have metal components like zippers and buttons. Check your clothing before your appointment to ensure it has no parts that will interfere with testing. If you’re unsure, go with plain cotton or linen pajamas.
No. Leave your rings, earrings, bracelets, and necklaces at home or remove them before entering the scan room. Jewelry heats up from the magnetic field and can cause painful burns or distort the resulting images.
This restriction also applies to glasses — leave them outside the scan room. Leave your purse or wallet with someone you trust, as these can’t enter the scan room either.
This depends — speak with your doctor for guidance. Some tattoo inks contain dyes that interact with the MRI and absorb energy, causing them to warm up. You could possibly feel a pulling or tingling sensation in your skin due to the MRI magnets interacting with your tattoo.
Though this sensation isn’t dangerous, it may be uncomfortable and alarming. Tattoo dyes can also interfere with the images, causing them to appear distorted.
Yes. Titanium implants are MRI-compatible. Tell your doctor if you have any implants or prostheses, including hearing implants, a pacemaker, dental implants or vascular stents.
Inform your doctor of any non-titanium implants and check with the manufacturer of your device. Some non-titanium implants are still compatible with the machine and don’t pose a risk during an MRI. If not, you and your doctor may need to decide on an alternative exam method.
No. Deodorants and antiperspirants contain trace amounts of metal, such as aluminum. The same goes for lotions and sunscreens, as many also contain metallic particles.
Sunscreens are likely to contain zinc, aluminum, and titanium. Although titanium doesn’t interact with the MRI, zinc, and aluminum can, so it’s better to leave the sunscreen at home.
Contact Adams Diagnostic Imaging to schedule your next MRI. We provide thorough, compassionate care with highly experienced radiologists and top-of-the-line imaging machines. If you have any questions about the process, we would be happy to answer them.
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Infant and Child MRI： A Review of Scanning Procedures
(1) The publication was written in a language other than English.
(2) The study was not a human study.
(3) The study focused on the prematurely born or low birth weight subjects of any age.
(4) The study was focusing on a disease or treatment. A potential risk of carrying a disease was not a reason to be excluded as long as the disease was not detected.
(5) 0–2-year-old living subjects were not MR imaged in the study.
(1) All subjects were scanned between 0 and 6 years of age.
(2) All scans were made without sedation and MRI was not clinically indicated. To make sure no sedatives were not used, the study had to state it or mention scans were made during natural sleep or awake. If this was not told, publication was excluded due to insufficient information of the scanning procedure.
(3) In accordance with the study’s inclusion or exclusion criteria, only subjects born at gestational age (GA) 35 weeks or later were included. If a study set a lower limit than 35 weeks for GA, it was excluded regardless of the subjects’ GAs. If a study did not set a limit for GA and the range was not reported the mean GA was ≥ 37 weeks with standard deviation ≤ 2 weeks (and mean GA minus SD was ≥ 35 weeks). Finally, regarding studies with no mention on GA, only longitudinal studies were included.
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