by Stahl RJ


A magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is a special type of MRI scan. An MRI uses magnetic waves and computers to take images of the inside of the body. MRCP takes images of the hepatobiliary and pancreatic systems, which includes the:

Reasons for Test

This test is done to look look:

  • The cause of symptoms like belly pain or jaundice , which is a yellowing of the skin caused by liver problems
  • Conditions like pancreatitis , which is swelling or infection of the pancreas
  • Blockages—may be caused by bile duct stones
  • Growths—like tumors
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Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen. For example, MRCP can be harmful in someone who has metal inside the body, such as:

  • Medical devices likes pacemakers, ear implants, insulin pumps, and shunts
  • Joint replacements, plates, or metal pins
  • Metal objects or pieces

A contrast dye may be used to take clearer pictures. In some people, the contrast can cause allergic reactions or kidney problems.

What to Expect

Prior to Test

Your care team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Any allergies you may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whethe ryou need to stop taking them before the test
  • Fasting before the test, such as avoiding food or drink for about 2 to 4 hours before the test
  • Whether you need a ride to and from the test
  • Medical devices or objects that you may have in your body
  • Whether you are or think you might be pregnant
  • Tests that will need to be done before the test, such as an X-ray to look for metal inside the body


The doctor may give a sedative. You will feel relaxed.

Description of Test

A contrast material may be injected into the hand or arm. You will lie very still on a sliding table. Monitors may be used to track your pulse, heart rate, and breathing. The table will slide into a narrow, enclosed tube. The technician will leave the room. You will be given directions through an intercom. You can reply through the intercom. Images will be taken of the organs and ducts in the belly. When the exam is done, you will slide out of the machine. Any IV needles used will be removed.

Some people may have an MRCP and an MRI scan of the rest of the abdomen done at the same time.

After the Test

You will be asked to wait while the images are checked. More images may be needed.

How Long Will It Take?

The exam may take 15 to 45 minutes. The length of time will depend on whether an MRI scan is also needed.

Will It Hurt?

The exam does not cause pain. The contrast dye injection may cause some discomfort.


The images will be studied. A report will be sent to your doctor. Your doctor will talk to you about the results and any further tests or treatment.

Problems to Look Out For

Call the doctor if you have:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Any allergic symptoms, such as a rash or swelling if contrast material was used
  • Problems urinating
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Symptoms worsen

If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.


National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases 

Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America 


Canadian Association of Radiologists 

Canadian Radiation Protection Association 


Choledocholithiasis. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2022.

Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP). Radiology Info—Radiological Society of North America website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2022.

MRCP scan. Patient website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2022.

Non-invasive tests. The Pancreas Center—Columbia University Medical Center website. Available at: Accessed March 9, 2022.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Mary-Beth Seymour, RN
  • Review Date: 11/2021
  • Update Date: 03/09/2022