Predictors of abnormalities on magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography: is there a role when the biliary tree is normal on previous imaging?

Authors Bhamini Vadhwana, John Graby, Martin Lewis, Anouchka Goldman, Antoni Sergot, Catherine Ramsey, Kevin J. Monahan.


Background There is limited evidence supporting the use of magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) if the biliary tree is within normal limits on ultrasound scan (US) or computed tomography (CT). The aim of this study was to assess the role of MRCP in the absence of a dilated biliary system on index imaging.

Methods A retrospective observational study of consecutive MRCP investigations (n=427) was performed between October 2010 and June 2013 at a single district general hospital. Data collected included patient demographics, clinical presentation, liver function tests (LFTs) and radiological presence of stones. Binary logistic regression and chi-square test were performed using SPSS v23.

Results We included 358 cases, 65% female (n=231) and 35% male (n=127), with a mean age of 60 years. Of these, 63% presented with abdominal pain (n=225), with 20% having concurrent deranged LFTs (n=44) and 8% jaundice (n=18). Index imaging demonstrated a dilated biliary system >6 mm in 68% (n=245). Alkaline phosphatase (ALP) elevation was an independent positive predictor for an abnormal MRCP (P=0.003). Abnormal index imaging, ALP and clinical jaundice were all significantly associated with a positive MRCP (P<0.001, P=0.028, P=0.018).

Conclusions It is efficacious to proceed to MRCP with abnormal findings on index imaging, clinical jaundice or elevated ALP. An MRCP scan should be strongly considered in the context of elevated ALP and normal US/CT biliary system.

Keywords Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, abnormal biliary tree, cholelithiasis, alkaline phosphatase, bilirubin

Ann Gastroenterol 2019; 32 (2): 193-198

Original Articles