The aim of this prospective study was to compare the intraindividual aperistaltic effect of 40 mg hyoscine N-butylbromide (HBB/Buscopan) with that of 1 mg glucagon on small bowel motility by using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Ten healthy volunteers underwent two separate 1.5-T MRI studies (HBB/glucagon) after a standardized oral preparation with an aqueous solution of Gd-DOTA and ispaghula (Metamucil). A 2D T1-w GRE sequence was acquired (TR 2.7 ms/TE 1.3 ms, temporal resolution 0.25 s) before and after intravenous (i.v.) drug administration and motility was followed over 1 h. On the resulting images the cross-sectional luminal diameters were assessed and plotted over time. Baseline motility frequency, onset of aperistalsis, duration of arrest, reappearance of motility and return to normal motility were analysed. Significant differences regarding reliability and duration of aperistalsis were observed. In the HBB group aperistalsis lasted a mean of 6.8 +/- 5.3 min compared with 18.3 +/- 7 min after glucagon (p < 0.0001). In 50% of cases HBB did not accomplish aperistalsis, whereas glucagon always succeeded (p = 0.05). There were no significant differences in terms of baseline and end frequencies for the onset of aperistalsis (22.2 +/- 37.5 s HBB/13.4 +/- 9.2 s glucagon, p = 0.1), nor for the return to normal motility. Arrest of small bowel motion is achieved more reliably and lasts significantly longer after i.v. administration of 1 mg glucagon compared with 40 mg HBB.