Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is a specialty Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) exam that is performed to view the biliary tract. This allows doctors to examine the bile duct, liver, pancreatic duct and gallbladder to detect gallstones, tumors or other diseases.

MRCP is a noninvasive alternative to traditional endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), an invasive exam where a tube is inserted through the mouth and passed down into the small intestine.

There is no ionizing radiation used in an MRI exam and is a totally painless exam with no known side effects.

When would I get an MRCP study?

Your medical provider may recommend Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography to be appropriate in order to:

  • diagnose unexplained abdominal pain
  • assess diseases of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and pancreatic duct
  • determine the cause of pancreatitis.

What Will I Experience?

You may be instructed  to not drink or eat for several hours prior to the MRCP study.

MRI exams are painless, however, some patients find it challenging to remain still during the study. Others may feel closed-in or become anxious while in a conventional "closed" MRI scanner.  IN these cases, the patient may ask their medical provider to prescribe a mild sedative before the exam.  If a sedative is taken, the patient will need someone to drive them home following the exam.

It is normal for the area of your body being imaged to feel slightly warm. It is important that you remain perfectly still few (seconds to a few minutes) while the images are being recorded. You will know when images are being recorded because you will hear tapping or thumping sounds when the coils that generate the radiofrequency pulses are activated. You will be able to relax between imaging sequences, but will be asked to maintain your position.

You will usually be alone in the exam room. However, the technologist will be able to see, hear and speak with you at all times.

You will be offered earplugs or a headset to reduce the noise of the MRI, which produces loud thumping and humming noises during imaging. MRI scanners are air-conditioned and well-lit. Some of our scanners have music you can listen to during the test.

MRCP is often performed in conjunction with an MRI of the abdomen. The entire procedure typically takes 30 to 45 minutes to complete.