Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, or MRCP, is a type of magnetic resonance imaging exam that uses MRI technology to view the biliary tract. This allows doctors to examine the bile duct, liver, pancreatic duct and gall bladder, and detect gallstones, tumors or disease. The procedure is quick and painless.

Locations Offering This Procedure:

Northwest Imaging

Who Needs This Procedure?

The magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography procedure may also be used to:

Diagnose abdominal pain
Assess diseases of the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas and pancreatic duct
Determine the cause of pancreatitis
How Should I Prepare For This Procedure?

The physician may instruct the patient not to eat or drink anything for several hour prior to the MRCP. Patients who are claustrophobic may request a mild sedative to relieve some anxiety.

During The Procedure?

When the procedure begins, the patient will be positioned on the exam table. A contrast dye may be injected through a catheter in order to improve the visibility of organs inside of the body.

The patient will then be moved into the MRI unit, which will capture images of the abdomen. The MRCP exam usually only takes about ten minutes to complete. However, the physician may also require an MRI of the abdomen to be performed, so the entire procedure may last approximately 30 to 45 minutes.


Although it is considered a safe procedure, there may be minimal side effects which may include:

Allergic reaction to the contrast dye
Nausea from the contrast dye
Following the MRCP, a radiologist will examine the images, and the results will later be discussed with the patient.

What Will I Experience?

People with claustrophobia may feel uncomfortable in a traditional or “closed” MRI unit because they must lie still inside a narrow tunnel within the scanning magnet. Sedatives may be given for patients who experience difficulty in the confined space. There are “open” MRI units for those who are too claustrophobic or do not fit into “closed” units. However, the capabilities of the “open” MRI unit are usually less than that of a “closed” unit.”

The Benefits:

With MRCP, doctors can take accurate pictures of the entire biliary tract in just a few minutes. It is a noninvasive alternative to traditional endoscopic cholangiopancreatography, in which a tube is inserted through the mouth and passed down into the small intestine.