MRI Guide: The Pancreas and MRCP
The pancreas is responsible for producing several specialized digestive enzymes and hormones. These enzymes help with the breakdown of sugars, fats, protein and starches. The hormones produced primarily affect the absorption and regulation of blood sugar.
Studies have shown 0.06 per cent of adults in the UK will develop some form of pancreatitis. This can be caused by gallstones, alcohol, or complications from other disorders.
If your doctors suspect a pancreatic problem, or if you have unexplained abdominal swelling or pain they may order an MRCP scan.
What is an MRCP Scan?
A magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) scan is a specialized type of MRI scan used to evaluate the pancreas, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreatic ducts. This procedure uses a magnetic field, radio waves, and a computer to generate images of these structures.
The MRCP scan can produce similar images to an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), without the need for an invasive endoscope. The MRCP scan can be performed on its own or in conjunction with a traditional MRI scan.
What is an MRCP Scan Used to Diagnose?
The MRCP provides a detailed look at the soft tissue structures involved in proper pancreatic function. This allows radiologists the opportunity to see:
This can help doctors determine the cause of:
- Unexplained abdominal pain
Acute pancreatitis–inflammation–has a 95 per cent recovery rate. Early diagnosis is always imperative for making a quick recovery. An MRCP can provide the insight needed for doctors to make an accurate diagnosis.
What Does an MRCP Scan Cost?
The national average for a private MRI scan is £363. At one of our centres, you can receive an MRI scan for as low as £299. The benefit of choosing a private MRI scan is to avoid long NHS wait times. The current NHS MRI wait is up to 18 weeks, while at our centres you can book an appointment within working 5 days–depending on your location.
How to Prepare For an MRCP Scan?
Since the MRCP is a non-invasive procedure there is little preparation needed. If the scan is being done in conjunction with an abdominal MRI scan you may need to avoid eating or drink for 4 to 5 hours before the procedure. Otherwise, you can eat and drink as normal unless your doctor tells you differently.
Upon arrival, you will need to fill out a medical questionnaire. It is important to inform the clinic if you have an implanted medical device, such as a defibrillator or pacemaker. Advanced MRI technologies make it possible to still safely undergo a scan, but the magnetic field can cause changes in the settings of these devices and will need to be monitored. You will need to identify if you have any metal in your body, including plates, clips, cochlear (inner ear) implants, or artificial joints. Metal objects can cause distorted images and changes to the procedure will need to be made to ensure an accurate image can be produced.
It’s also necessary to inform the technician of any allergies to medication, specifically contrast material. Generally, a contrast dye is not needed for an MRCP scan but your doctors may request it to view certain tissue types.
Although there is no connection between MRI and birth defects, you should still inform the technician if you are pregnant. The radiographer needs to have a comprehensive medical history before beginning the procedure.
The Bottom Line
An MCRP scan is an important non-invasive tool for assessing the condition of the pancreas and related structures. By providing a detailed look at the soft tissues, doctors can diagnose potential inflammation, infection, or cancer.
If you are interested in more information on an MCRP scan, contact us. Our team is here to answer any questions you may have.