How Imaging Can Help Diagnose Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

December 9, 2022 – 2 min read

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How Imaging Can Help Diagnose Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease

Doctors often use various tests to diagnose ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Symptoms of these inflammatory bowel diseases (IBDs) can mimic those of other conditions, making them more difficult to diagnose.

Crohn’s disease is an autoimmune disorder, which means the body’s immune system mistakes healthy tissue for diseased tissue. This IBD causes inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract, occurring in patches next to healthy tissues. Many experts also consider ulcerative colitis to be an autoimmune disease. This condition can lead to ulcers and inflammation along the inner large bowel wall (large intestine wall) and is continuous instead of patchy.

In many cases, doctors use imaging to make a definitive diagnosis and to determine the right course of treatment for your condition. Imaging can help your doctor determine whether you have Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis and rule out other conditions.

CT scans for IBD diagnosis

Computed tomography, or CT scans, use special X-ray equipment to take cross-sectional pictures of structures inside the body. Your doctor can use a pelvic CT scan to view images of your gastrointestinal tract and abdominal organs to look for signs of Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, such as inflammation, and determine where the inflammation occurs.

CT enterography is a special type of CT scan that uses contrast material to better show the small intestine and additional structures in the abdomen and pelvis. This scan can show whether you have ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease and the location and severity of the disease.

Pelvic MRI scans

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is another tool doctors use to get images of the pelvic and abdominal area to diagnose and monitor Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. Unlike CT scans, MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of internal structures. MRI scans of the pelvis and abdominal regions show organs such as the bowel and bladder and can reveal signs of IBDs.

MR enterography is a type of MRI that uses contrast material to show a more detailed view of the small intestine. The test can show inflammation, bleeding, bowel obstructions, tumors, and other issues.

How upper GI X-rays are used

X-rays can also give your doctor clues to diagnose IBDs. Upper gastrointestinal tract radiography, also known as an upper GI series, uses a form of X-ray called fluoroscopy and a contrast material, such as barium. Fluoroscopy allows your doctor to see how organs function while in motion. An upper GI series shows the esophagus, stomach, and small intestine, with the barium coating giving your doctor a clearer picture of the function and anatomy of these organs.

If you are having symptoms of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, or another IBD and your doctor has ordered imaging, the experts at American Health Imaging can help. We offer reliable, cost-effective imaging performed by expert radiologists. Request an appointment at the location closest to you.