Anorectal diseases (e.g., fecal incontinence, perianal and anovaginal fistulas, anorectal tumors) require imaging for proper case management. Endoluminal magnetic resonance (MR) imaging has become an important part of diagnostic work-up in such cases. Optimal endoluminal MR imaging requires careful attention to patient preparation, imaging protocols, and potential pitfalls in interpretation. Comfortable positioning and the use of an antiperistaltic drug are vital for adequate patient preparation. Selected sequences and imaging planes are used in imaging protocols tailored for specific diseases. In fecal incontinence, three-dimensional sequences allow detailed demonstration of the anal anatomy and related defects. In perianal and anovaginal fistulas, longitudinal imaging planes help determine the superior extent of the abnormality. In anorectal tumors, T1-weighted turbo spin-echo MR imaging can help detect extension into the perirectal fat and T2-weighted turbo spin-echo MR imaging is used to optimize contrast between tumor and the rectal wall. Off-axis and radial imaging planes are used in all anorectal diseases to minimize partial volume effects. Potential pitfalls include various parts of the normal anal anatomy mimicking sphincter defects, veins and hemorrhoids mimicking fistulas and abscesses, and overhanging tumor mimicking more extensive tumor. Adequate patient preparation combined with proper technique and a knowledge of potential pitfalls will allow optimal endoluminal MR imaging of the rectum and anus.

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Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Stoker, J, Rociu, E, Zwamborn, A.W, Schouten, W.R, & Lameris, J.S. (1999). Endoluminal MR imaging of the rectum and anus: technique, applications, and pitfalls. RadioGraphics. Retrieved from