Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Norm of Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Requires interpretation. Normal images of liver, biliary tree, and pancreas.


Usage of Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Used when more invasive procedures such as endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) are contraindicated or have not been successful. Can detect choledocholithiasis, obstruction and dilation of the bile and pancreatic ducts because of malignancies, abnormal anatomy, or pancreatitis. Used preoperatively to depict the anatomy of the ductal system before surgical drainage. Used postoperatively to evaluate the hepatobiliary system after gastrointestinal surgery. Superior to ERCP in visualizing dilated ducts proximal to an obstruction. The diffusion-weighted technique is particularly helpful in detecting early ischemic stroke and multiple sclerosis, and in differentiating neoplasm from brain abscess.


Description of Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is a noninvasive, noncontrast procedure for evaluating the gallbladder, biliary tract, and pancreatic duct. MRCP is able to visualize extrahepatic bile ducts and central intrahepatic ducts. Because these structures contain fluid, they appear as bright images under magnetic resonance imaging. Because this procedure can be performed in about 10 minutes, can visualize the entire hepatobiliary system, and does not use risky contrast material, it is being used more often as a replacement for the traditional ERCP procedure. MRCP may be enhanced with the use of the breath-hold method, using intravenous gadolinium (Gd).


Professional Considerations of Magnetic Resonance Cholangiopancreatography (MRCP)

Consent form IS required.

See Risks, Magnetic resonance imaging.
See Contraindications, Magnetic resonance imaging.
See Precautions, Magnetic resonance imaging.



  1. See Preparation, Magnetic resonance imaging.



  1. The client is positioned supine on the MRCP table and an antenna is coiled around the abdomen.
  2. Noncontrast method:
    • a. A scout MRCP is performed to locate the biliary tract and pancreatic duct and then is used as a guide to acquire multiple images of the bile and pancreatic ducts.
    • b. A regular MRI of the abdomen may follow.
  3. Breath-hold method:
    • a. An intravenous injection of 10 mL of gadolinium chelate is followed by fast-spoiled, gradient echo sequences acquired during breath-holding at 5, 10, and 15 minutes.
    • b. The collecting system is evaluated according to a scale of 0 to 3.


Postprocedure Care

  1. See Postprocedure Care, Magnetic resonance imaging.


Client and Family Teaching

  1. MRCP is used to evaluate whether there are obstructions in the area of the gallbladder, liver, and pancreas.
  2. See Client and Family Teaching, Magnetic resonance imaging.


Factors That Affect Results

  1. See Factors That Affect Results, Magnetic resonance imaging.


Other Data

  1. None.