MR Cholangiopancreatography

March 22, 2017

MR Cholangiopancreatography

What is MR Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)?

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is a special kind of MRI test. Your healthcare provider uses it to look at the pancreatic system. This includes the pancreas, the bile ducts, gallbladder, and liver. The procedure uses a combination of magnets, radio waves, and a computer to make detailed images. A contrast dye may be used for even better images.

MRCP is:

  • Noninvasive
  • Doesn’t use radiation
  • Gives highly detailed images
  • Helpful for diagnosis and treatment

Why might I need MRCP?

MRCP is used to:

  • Diagnose or evaluate conditions, including:
    • Stones
    • Tumors
    • Inflammation of the gallbladder, bile duct, liver, pancreatic duct, or pancreas
  • Find out the cause of stomach pain
It is often combined with a standard MRI.

What are the risks of MRCP?

MRCP is a safe test. It has only a few risks:

  • Kidney scarring from the contrast dye. The MRCP test does not use contrast. However, if the test is combined with a standard MRI, you may be given intravenous contrast.
  • Problems with implanted metal pieces or devices. This is because of the magnetic fields used to capture images.
  • Allergic reaction to contrast material, if used.

If you are or could be pregnant, tell your healthcare provider. There may be other risks, depending on your specific medical condition. Be sure to discuss any concerns with your healthcare provider before the procedure.

How do I get ready for MRCP?

Your healthcare provider will give you instructions on how to prepare for your MRCP. Those instructions may include these:

  • Fast for several hours before the procedure
  • Wear loose-fitting clothes that have no metal fasteners or zippers
  • Leave all jewelry and metal accessories and other objects at home, including barrettes or hair pins and any dental work that can be removed
  • Arrange to have someone drive you home after the procedure if you are to receive sedation

You will also need to discuss your medical history with your healthcare provider before the test, including:

  • Any chronic health conditions
  • Any medical implants that you have, such as metal plates or screws, a pacemaker, or artificial heart valve
  • Any previous surgeries
  • Any allergies
  • A history of anxiety about being in closed spaces

What happens during MRCP?

  • You will lie on a table. You may be held in position with straps to keep you from moving. Moving would distort the images. You may have coils placed around you that will help to send radio waves.
  • If you are having the procedure with contrast dye, you will have an intravenous (IV) line started to give the dye.
  • The table will slide into the MRI machine to capture images of your stomach. 
  • The machine is very loud. Ear plugs are often given.
The entire test usually takes about 45 minutes. MRCP may be done outpatient, requiring no hospital stay, or as part of a hospital stay.

What happens after MRCP?

If you weren't sedated, you won't need any recovery time, and you can usually resume your normal activities right away. If you were sedated, it may take a few hours for the sedation to wear off, and someone will need to drive you home.

Next steps

Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
  • The name of the test or procedure
  • The reason you are having the test or procedure
  • What results to expect and what they mean
  • The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
  • What the possible side effects or complications are
  • When and where you are to have the test or procedure
  • Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
  • What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
  • Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
  • When and how will you get the results
  • Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
  • How much will you have to pay for the test or procedure


March 22, 2017

Reviewed By:  

Brown, Kim, APRN,Lehrer, Jenifer, MD