MRCP (Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography) is a noninvasive method of looking at the biliary tree and is known to be the ‘gold standard’ in diagnosing PSC and monitoring changes in the bile ducts over time.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a strong magnetic field and radio waves to produce images of the inside of your body. MRI scanning is one of the safest imaging techniques available and it is completely painless.

You can drink and eat as normal before most MRI scans and quickly get back to your normal daily routine.

You can have an MRI scan and be in and out of the hospital in less than an hour (subject to waiting times!). You will lie on a bed, which is moved into and through the MRI scanner, which is like a short tunnel. You will be asked to lie very still whilst in the scanner. You will be able to speak to and hear the staff at all times. Your head will be inside the MRI scanner and this may make you may feel claustrophobic. If you think this is likely to happen it is a good idea to close your eyes as you enter the scanner and keep them closed throughout. You will hold a buzzer in your hand, which you can use to signal to the staff that you want to be removed. The scanner is very noisy but is completely painless.

Part of the scan involves lying very still. At some points, you are asked to hold your breath for a little while so they can get perfect images.

An MRI scan takes around 30 minutes. Many hospitals play music for your while you are in the scanner. We suggest taking along your own CD to make sure you get something you like listening to!

What PSCers say

“I arrived at the hospital and eventually found the imaging suite. The nurse handed me a backless gown and I was told to change into it in the changing rooms. I did this quickly and was able to put my clothes and bag into a locker. At the last minute I remembered to take out my earrings, as you are not allowed to wear any metal. I kept my glasses on though. I brought my crocs and kept my socks on, as last time my feet were cold. I came out and sat on the chair in the waiting area. I kept my fleece on as the backless gown was somewhat revealing!

When it was my turn, I asked the nurse if I could have some music on. She said ‘Of course’, and I handed her my CD. I went through a door labelled with radiation signs and into the room with the scanner. The nurse took my glasses and I was asked to lie down on a narrow bench. I lay down and the nurse spent a few minutes repositioning me and wrapping ‘belts’ round me. She then said it was time for me to enter the scanner. She positioned the emergency button near my hand, and pressed the button to move me into the scanner, and left the room. The bench moved into the scanner, my feet entering first, until I was completely in the small tunnel. It was quite small, and I tried not to think of how little room there was. Luckily, the music began so I concentrated on that.

A voice interrupted the music to check I was Ok and that I could hear OK. I replied yes, wondering how they could hear me from the other room. Then the clicking started: click click click Nurrrrrrrrrrr. Bang! The noises are quite something but not scary. The nurse told me to relax my breathing – the imaging had begun! After a while, she told me on her signal, I was to hold my breath. It seemed like forever but this was important and the scanner was getting images of my bile ducts and I had to keep perfectly still (and not even breathe). I did a few of those and then also some where I only had to hold my breath for a few seconds.

After about half an hour, it was all done! The nurse appeared and reversed me out of my tunnel, and I was allowed to collect my glasses and go and get dressed. They said they’d send the results to my consultant within a week.

That was it! I quite like MRCPs now I am used to them.”

Reviewed 10/05/12

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