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Abdominal Imaging

Abdominal Imaging, a subspecialty within Diagnostic Radiology that provides diagnostic imaging and therapeutic interventions for diseases and conditions of the abdominal and pelvic regions including gastrointestinal, hepatobiliary, genitourinary, gynecological and transplant evaluation. As one of the largest abdominal imaging sections in the country, we are recognized nationally for our subspecialty expertise advanced imaging of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract and the genitourinary (GU) system, bariatric and postoperative imaging, and advanced prostate imaging and biopsy procedures. Approximately 350,000 patients from around the U.S. each year seek our expertise.

Following the Radiology Department’s mantra, “Image of Excellence”, the Abdominal Imaging section offers all of the leading-edge procedures and imaging studies including Contrast Enhanced Ultrasound (CEUS), Virtual Colonoscopy, MR and CT Enterography, MR Elastography and a full spectrum of diagnostic imaging studies for digestive, urinary and gynecologic diseases. We provide the safest and most advanced diagnostic imaging care available.

While our primary focus is patient care, as part of a top-ranked medical university, our team has had our research work published extensively in medical journals and textbooks. Several of our Abdominal Imaging specialists have been selected as “Top Docs in Richmond” and honored nationally among the "Best Doctors in America".

Our state-of-the-art procedures include:

Small intestine imaging (CT and MR Enterography)

Our specialty-trained gastrointestinal radiologists perform advanced imaging procedures – CT Enterography and MR Enterography – to evaluate the small intestine. These exams give physicians cross-sectional images of the small intestine and surrounding tissues and structures, and are well-suited for diagnosing inflammatory bowel disorders such as Crohn’s disease. Either test is used to assess gastrointestinal bleeding and to identify lesions not visible by other standard means. In addition, these exams help determine the status of disease, response to treatment, and assess complications including the presence of an abscess, fistula or other obstructions.

About the procedure

Patients should not eat for at least four hours prior to the procedure. Upon arrival, you will be given several glasses of a barium suspension to drink that will expand the small bowel for imaging. Before scanning, you’ll be given an IV, through which contrast dye will be injected to highlight the small intestines and help identify any abnormalities. Images are acquired in less than 10 minutes with CT procedures, and about 30 to 45 minutes with MR procedures.

Virtual Colonography

VCU Health was among the first in Virginia to offer “virtual colonoscopy” (medically known as CT Colonography), and is the only location in the Richmond region to offer this advanced imaging procedure – a patient-friendly alternative to a traditional colonoscopy. This non-invasive procedure allows radiologists to detect colon polyps, the precursor lesions for colon cancer. Identification and removal of colon polyps before they become cancerous is the goal of a colon screening. This procedure takes only a few minutes and no sedation is necessary.

Compared to a traditional colonoscopy, the virtual CT version is shown to be as accurate and can allow for evaluation of the entire colon, without the risks of bowel perforation or complications from sedation (and without the need to navigate a colonoscope through the colon’s twists and turns). Still, not all patients are a candidate for a virtual colonography, particularly those with a family history of colorectal cancer or bowel issues. If polyps are found in a virtual colonography, a conventional colonoscopy procedure will be required to remove them.

About the procedure

Virtual colonoscopy patients will undergo bowel preparation one day prior to the exam, as they would for standard colonoscopy. During the procedure, the patient lays on a CT scan table while the colon is partially inflated using a tiny air tube. Two 5-second scans are performed – one with the patient lying on their back and the other with the patient lying on their stomach. The procedure overall generally takes up to 10 minutes to complete. Using data from the scans, two-dimensional and three-dimensional images of the colon are collected, allowing the radiologist to review the precise location and size of any colon polyps or masses. Patient information on virtual colonography

Liver, gallbladder, and pancreas imaging (MRI with MRCP)

MRCP stands for Magnetic Resonance Cholangio Pancreatography – a special type of magnetic resonance imaging or MRI exam that produces detailed images of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and pancreatic duct. This safe, radiation-free, and noninvasive procedure uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to view these internal structures for disease and possible blockages, inflammation or infection.

About the procedure

Patients may be asked to wear a gown during the exam or you may be allowed to wear your own clothing if it is loose-fitting and has no metal fasteners. All jewelry must be removed and no metal or electronic items are allowed in the exam room. Patients should not eat for up to 8 hours before the exam. An IV line will be placed in the patient’s arm to deliver a contrast agent, which will help the technologist and physician to obtain high quality images. The actual MRCP exam takes approximately 15 minutes, but it is often performed with a standard MRI of the abdomen, which may last approximately 30 minutes. In this case the entire exam is usually completed within 45 minutes.

Contact us

Abdominal Imaging is offered at several VCU Health locations in the Richmond area.

Patients and referring providers
To schedule an appointment or refer a patient, call (804) 828-4467.

Directions and parking

Click here for information about parking at VCU Medical Center, our valet service, and the Patient and Visitor Parking Deck.