Chronic diseases are never easy. They require constant doctor’s appointments, testing, medications and monitoring. Crohn’s disease is a chronic inflammatory bowel disease. It causes inflammation of your digestive tract, which can lead to abdominal pain, severe diarrhea, fatigue, weight loss and malnutrition. It requires ongoing imaging to determine the disease activity and show any changes or complications. But by taking all these necessary images that are meant to help people with Crohn’s disease actually hurting them?
In the past, CAT (CT) scans have been the preferred test for patients suffering from Crohn’s disease. A CT scan is a special X-ray test that produces high-resolution images of the brain, neck, spine, chest, abdomen, pelvis and sinuses. The downside of a CT scan is that the patient is exposed to radiation when undergoing the scan.
Dr. Sweriduk, a radiologist and the Medical Director for Shields Health Care Group, has been seeing and imaging patients with Crohn’s disease for over 30 years. He talked to us about the danger of CT scans in patients with chronic diseases.
“First of all, Crohn's disease is a chronic disease and patients oftentimes require multiple imaging studies. In the past, patients received multiple CAT scans which are performed using radiation. Recent studies have shown that up to 10% of patients with Crohn's disease have had a dose of radiation that may actually lead to a secondary cancer. So, what you want to do is limit the dose of radiation to an individual patient and to the total population.”
MR enterography (MRE) is a technique that uses MRI scans to evaluate the bowel in patients with suspected inflammatory bowel disease and particularly, Crohn's disease. The difference between an MRI and a CT scan is that MRIs don’t use ionizing radiation, so they are completely safe for the patient, especially for a Crohn’s patient who has to get multiple scans over time.
Here are some other benefits to MRI scans for Crohn’s disease:
- With advancements in technology, an MRI can be done quickly and more efficiently. “In the past, when we would do an image of the bowel, it might take 10 or 12 minutes. Because the bowel is moving during that whole time, many of these images were unreadable. However, now images of the abdomen and bowel can be obtained in 10 or 20 seconds and basically freeze motion” says Dr. Sweriduk.
- MRE provides three complementary techniques for evaluating the large and small bowel. This gives a more accurate and thorough assessment for active inflammation than a CT scan can.
- MRE creates a more full picture of the bowel with a series of pictures done over a period of time. This can rule out false positives and inaccurate diagnosis of inflammation.
More doctors today are choosing an MRI because its effectiveness is comparable to a CT scan, but without the radiation. If you’re interested in learning more about your Crohn’s imaging options or about the benefits of an MRI, talk to your doctor or hear more from Dr. Sweriduk in this informative video: https://vimeo.com/342053876.