New MRI study to get clearer picture of treatment for common bowel problem

Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Experts from the University of Nottingham are looking for volunteers to take part in an MRI study into a common treatment for constipation.

Researchers from the Sir Peter Mansfield Imaging Centre (SPMIC) and Gastroenterology in the School of Medicine are investigating how a popular treatment for constipation works in the body. Their findings will improve understanding of how Bisacodyl works, which will help with further developments in the treatment of long-term constipation.

Bisacodyl (often known as Dulcolax) is a common laxative used to treat short-term constipation. For the study volunteers will be asked to take either 5mg of Bisacodyl or a placebo (dummy pill) and will then have MRI scans to get detailed images of the bowels to show the effect the medication has.

Volunteers are needed who have some constipation, but do not use laxatives more than four times a month. Study participants will be asked to come to the SPMIC for a total of seven visits, including 18 MRI scans, which are entirely safe. They will take 5 mg bisacodyl or a placebo and will be scanned repeatedly during the study day before and after a standardised meal. The study will then compare images of the participant’s bowels after each treatment.

Constipation is a common problem that affects around one in seven otherwise healthy people and the two groups of people most likely to get constipation are young women and the elderly – especially those who need to take regular medicines. There are many reasons for it occurring including: as a side effect to other medicines, emotional upset and diet.

Constipation is extremely common yet many patients are dissatisfied with treatment. Laxatives are used by many as a short-term solution but their effectiveness varies. We hope that that by getting a clearer picture of how they work inside the body we can help with further developments of more effective long-term treatments.
Professor Robin Spiller

If you are interested in finding out more or want to take part go to:

Story credits

More information is available from Professor Spiller or Dr Neele Dellschaft on robin.spiller@ or or Jane Icke, Media Relations Manager for the Faculty of Science at the University of Nottingham, on +44 (0)115 951 5751 or

Jane Icke - Media Relations Manager Science
Phone: 0115 7486462

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Notes to editors:

The University of Nottingham is a research-intensive university with a proud heritage. Studying at the University of Nottingham is a life-changing experience and we pride ourselves on unlocking the potential of our students. We have a pioneering spirit, expressed in the vision of our founder Sir Jesse Boot, which has seen us lead the way in establishing campuses in China and Malaysia - part of a globally connected network of education, research and industrial engagement. Ranked 103rd out of more than 1,000 institutions globally and 18th in the UK by the QS World University Rankings 2022, the University’s state-of-the-art facilities and inclusive and disability sport provision is reflected in its crowning as The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021 Sports University of the Year. We are ranked eighth for research power in the UK according to REF 2014. We have six beacons of research excellence helping to transform lives and change the world; we are also a major employer and industry partner - locally and globally. Alongside Nottingham Trent University, we lead the Universities for Nottingham initiative, a pioneering collaboration which brings together the combined strength and civic missions of Nottingham’s two world-class universities and is working with local communities and partners to aid recovery and renewal following the COVID-19 pandemic.

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