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  • An MRCP exam is a procedure used to examine the ducts that drain fluid from your child’s liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
  • Ask your provider how to prepare your child for an MRCP and how to take care of your child at home.
  • Ask your healthcare provider how and when you will get your child’s test results.


What is an MRCP exam?

MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) is a procedure that uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to show detailed pictures of the ducts that drain fluid from your child’s liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. It’s a special type of MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) exam.

The liver makes bile that helps your child’s body break down the fat in food, and ducts carry bile to the gallbladder. The gallbladder is a small sac under the liver on the right side of the body that stores bile. The bile duct carries bile to the small intestine. The pancreas makes fluid that helps break down food. A duct carries digestive fluids from the pancreas to the upper part of the small intestine.

When is it used?

An MRCP may be done to find a problem in the bile and pancreas ducts such as scarring, tumors, or bile stones.

How do I prepare my child for this procedure?

Usually no preparation is needed for an MRCP, but in some cases, your child’s healthcare provider may give you instructions to follow before the scan. Your child’s instructions may include:

  • Changes to how your child takes his or her medicines
  • What your child can eat and drink before the MRCP
  • Getting other tests or procedures

Metal will interfere with an MRCP, so:

  • Have your child wear loose, comfortable clothing without metal fastenings such as zippers or clasps.
  • Have your child not wear jewelry or have metal objects in clothing pockets.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if your child has any metal in his or her body such as plates or screws from a previous surgery. The metal may cause the MRCP pictures to be blurry.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if your child has a pacemaker. Your child may not be able to have an MRCP.
  • Some skin medicine patches contain metals. The patches could overheat during an MRCP and burn your child’s skin. If your child wears a medicine patch, your child may need to remove it before an MRCP. Talk with your child’s healthcare provider about this.
  • Tell your healthcare provider if your child has tattoos especially on the eyelids. Some tattoo inks contain metal particles that can cause the skin to get warm during the MRCP.

Tell your healthcare provider if your child may be pregnant. Although there is no proof that an MRCP will hurt a baby during the first trimester of pregnancy, the National Radiological Protection Board recommends not using it during the first 3 months of pregnancy. MRCP may be used safely later in pregnancy.

Most MRCP machines are tunnel shaped, which means your child will be in a small space during the scan. Tell your healthcare provider if your child has anxiety or fears when in small or crowded spaces. Your child’s provider may give your child medicine to help feel less nervous, or your child may be able to go to a site with an open MRCP scanner.

What happens during this procedure?

With most machines, your child will lie on a narrow bed that moves through the MRI machine. Some machines move over the bed. Your child will need to be very still during the scan so the pictures will not be blurry. Sometimes your child will be given IV fluid called contrast dye before the MRCP. Contrast dye can make abnormal areas in your child’s body easier to see in the pictures created by the MRI.

Most MRCPs take 30 to 60 minutes and some take longer. Your child will hear knocking and a whirring sound while the pictures are being taken. If you are concerned that the noise will bother your child, ask the person doing the scan if your child can wear earplugs or listen to music during the scan. Your child will be able to speak with the person doing the scan so your child can let them know if he or she is having any problems.

When the scan is over you may take your child home.

Ask your child’s healthcare provider when and how you will get the results.

What happens after this procedure?

When the scan is over you may take your child home.

  • If your child received IV contrast dye, have your child drink a glass of water after the MRCP, unless your child’s healthcare provider has limited the amount of liquid your child should drink.
  • Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions.
  • Ask your child’s healthcare provider:
    • How and when you will get your test results
    • If there are activities your child should avoid, and when your child can return to normal activities
    • How to take care of your child at home
    • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if your child has them

Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Tell your healthcare provider if you have kidney problems before the MRCP.

In rare cases, your child may have an allergic reaction to the contrast dye used during the procedure. Tell your child’s healthcare provider if your child has kidney problems before the MRCP.

Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by Change Healthcare.
Pediatric Advisor 2018.1 published by Change Healthcare.
Last modified: 2017-11-13
Last reviewed: 2017-11-13
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
© 2018 Change Healthcare LLC and/or one of its subsidiaries
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