MRCP is abbreviation of a very long name “magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography”. It is an imaging method based on magnetic resonance imaging, which has a great importance in examination of the biliary tract and pancreatic duct. Therefore, it is certain equivalent of ERCP.


While the ERCP is an invasive examination, which consists of introducing the endoscopic device through mouth, esophagus and stomach into the duodenum, MRCP allows to examine the biliary tract non-invasively. It is magnetic resonance imaging, which is focused on the desired subhepatic area (bile duct, pancreas and vicinity). 


The test does not need any special preparation, the patient may be administered drugs to reduce intestinal activity shortly before the examination.


MRCP is used in diagnosis and monitoring of diseases of the biliary tract and pancreas. It may be used in diagnostics of unknown narrowing of the bile duct, obstructed bile flow, chronic pancreatitis and others.


The examination carries the same negatives as classical magnetic resonance imaging – it is not so widely available and the price is higher than in ERCP. The patient may suffer from claustrophobia when he is closed within the MRI machine and he should not have any metallic objects in the body that may be influenced by strong magnetic field emitted by the machine. Other disadvantage comparing to ERCP is that the MRCP is purely diagnostic method. ERCP can not only diagnose pathologies, but  it can also solve them therapeutically.


The greatest advantage of MRCP is its non-invasiveness. The ERCP is a relatively aggressive intervention and carries certain risks (hemorrhage from the biliary tree, acute pancreatitis, etc.). All these potential complications can be avoided by MRCP. In addition, the MRCP does not expose the patient to radiation.


MRCP is a relatively modern method that may to some extent replace the ERCP in certain indications. However, the inability of a therapeutic intervention causes that the MRCP shall never become the more modern successor of ERCP.


Jiri Stefanek, MD  Author of texts: Jiri Stefanek, MD
 Sources: basic text sources