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Gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas (MRCP)

Gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas (MRCP)

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Learn more about the MRCP (MRCP stands for magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) scan: what can be detected when it's scanned, and why you might need it scanned.

What is an MRCP Scan?

MRCP is a specialised type of MRI that uses computer software to create detailed images of the pancreas, liver, gallbladder, and bile ducts. It is a non-invasive procedure that does not require radiation exposure. During an MRCP scan, a contrast agent may be injected into the patient's veins to enhance the visibility of the ducts and surrounding structures.

Introduction to Pancreatic Health

The pancreas is a vital organ that plays a crucial role in digestion and blood sugar regulation. However, it is susceptible to various disorders, including pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer.

Prevalence and Causes of Pancreatic Disorders

Pancreatic disorders are relatively common. The most common causes of pancreatitis include gallstones, alcohol abuse, and certain medications. Pancreatic cancer is less common but more serious.

If you are concerned regarding specific symptoms, please ensure to discuss this with your healthcare provider. 

When to Get an MRCP Scan?

Suspected Pancreatic or Biliary Tract Disorders

  • Unexplained abdominal pain
  • Pancreatitis
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Gallstones
  • Bile duct problems
  • Blockage or narrowing of the pancreatic or bile duct

Inflammatory Conditions

  • Primary sclerosing cholangitis

Other Indications

  • Presence of gallstones
  • Inflammation
  • Cancer of the bile duct
  • Underlying causes of liver disease, jaundice

The MRCP scan is a specialised type of contrast MRI that provides detailed images of the pancreatic and biliary systems without using ionizing radiation. It is less invasive compared to endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and helps diagnose conditions and plan treatment.

Diagnostic Capabilities of MRCP

MRCP is a valuable tool for diagnosing a wide range of pancreatic and biliary disorders, including:

  • Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas, which can cause severe abdominal pain and digestive issues.
  • Pancreatic Cancer: A serious condition where cancerous cells grow in the pancreas, potentially leading to blockages and other complications.
  • Gallstones: Small, hard deposits that form in the gallbladder and can block bile ducts, causing pain and digestive problems.
  • Bile Duct Blockages or Narrowing: Obstructions or constrictions in the bile ducts, can affect the flow of bile and cause jaundice or other symptoms.
  • Pancreatic Cysts: Fluid-filled sacs that can develop on the pancreas, sometimes causing pain or other symptoms.
  • Intraductal Papillary Mucinous Neoplasms (IPMNs): Growths in the pancreatic ducts that can produce mucus and may develop into cancer if not treated.

Preparing for an MRCP Scan

Patients typically do not need to fast or make significant changes to their medication regimen before an MRCP procedure. However, it is essential to inform the healthcare provider of any metal implants, such as pacemakers or aneurysm clips, as they may interfere with the magnetic field and pose safety risks.

The Procedure

During an MRCP scan, the patient lies on a table that slides into the MRI machine. The technologist positions the patient and administers the contrast agent through an intravenous line. The scan typically takes 30-60 minutes to complete.

Safety and Considerations

MRCP is generally considered a safe procedure with minimal risks. However, patients with certain metal implants or claustrophobia may not be suitable candidates. Additionally, some individuals may experience an allergic reaction to the contrast agent (if this is used)


MRCP is a valuable diagnostic tool for evaluating pancreatic and biliary disorders. It provides detailed images of the pancreas, bile ducts, and gallbladder without the need for radiation exposure. 

If you are concerned regarding specific symptoms, please ensure to discuss this with your healthcare provider. Contact us for more details on an MRCP scan with GetScanned to ensure a prompt and accurate diagnosis.

Get Fast, Accurate Diagnoses – Book Your Private MRCP Scan with GetScanned Today!

Lorea content writter
Reviewed by
Dr. Sachin Shah
Clinical Lead
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Frequently asked questions

Do I need a GP-referral?

No prior GP-referral is required. Booking with us includes a GP phone consultation and referral. Shortly after booking you will be contacted by a GP from our team who will discuss your scan and provide a referral.

How long is an MRI scan?

MRI scans generally take a bit longer than other types of scans. Individual scans take 10-30 minutes depending on the body part being scanned, overall it can take anywhere from 15 minutes to 90 minutes. You do have to lay very still for an MRI and if there is movement the scan may need to be repeated which can add some additional time.

What’s included in my booking?

With your GetScanned booking, you will receive:

  • A pre-scan phone consultation with a member of our medical team.
  • A referral for the scan.
  • Scheduling of a private MRI scan at your preferred scanning centre.
  • Access to your written report by a radiologist.
  • Access to your scan images (online and downloadable).

How much is a private MRI scan?

A private MRI scan cost varies depending on the part of the body being scanned and the location the scan is performed. Generally, a private MRI scan in the UK starts at around £350, and includes the scheduling, scan itself and results.

What’s the difference between an open and closed MRI?

Closed MRI machines are the traditional and first type of MRI. They are used more frequently because they provide higher quality images, however they aren’t ideal for certain types of scan or when the patient has limited mobility. Open or wide-bore MRI machines don’t involve lying in a tight cylinder, instead they have wider openings with more space and are therefore considered better if you suffer from claustrophobia. A standing MRI or upright MRI is a new type of open MRI that allows the patient to be in various different positions, including weight bearing positions. If you would prefer an open MRI please filter by MRI type to find an open MRI near you, but please be aware it is only available at certain locations.

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