Background and study aims: The purpose of this study was to evaluate the accuracy of respiratory-triggered three-dimensional magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (3D-MRCP) for the detection of primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and to compare the specific findings of magnetic resonance cholangiography and endoscopic retrograde cholangiography in patients with PSC.
Patients and methods: The MRCP findings were evaluated in 150 patients with clinical symptoms (progressive fatigue, pruritus followed by icterus) and/or elevated values for alkaline phosphatase and serum aspartate transaminase, and occasionally an elevated serum concentration of bilirubin as a sign of cholestasis, who were consecutively referred for magnetic resonance imaging. Two observers independently classified bile duct abnormalities and established the MRCP diagnosis in a consensus reading. The results of MRCP were compared with the definitive diagnosis, which was based on the clinical history and laboratory and histological data, as well as on endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography (ERCP) findings. In a second step, the observers compared the delineation of the biliary system and morphological findings using MRCP and ERCP in patients with confirmed PSC.
Results: Diagnostic examinations were obtained in 146 of the 150 MRCPs (97 %). The diagnosis of PSC was confirmed by clinical data and ERCP in 34 of these 150 patients (23 %). The sensitivity and specificity of MRCP for diagnosing PSC were 88 % (29 of 33) and 99 % (108 of 109), respectively. MRCP and ERCP yielded similar scores for the delineation of the biliary system (P = 0.2) in patients with PSC. However, different bile duct abnormalities leading to the diagnosis of PSC were depicted by MRCP and ERCP; more bile duct stenoses and pruning were seen with ERCP and more skip dilatation with MRCP (P < 10(-4)).
Conclusion: In patients with PSC, MRCP is a highly sensitive method and its diagnostic accuracy is comparable to that of ERCP.