Background: Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) is an emerging modality in the management of acute gallstone pancreatitis (AGP). The aim of this study was to assess the impact following the introduction of MRCP in the management of AGP in a tertiary referral unit. Methods: Patients presenting with AGP from January 2002 to December 2004 were reviewed to assess the impact of the introduction of MRCP in June 2003. The indication for MRCP was suspected common bile duct (CBD) stones in the absence of biliary sepsis. Definitive treatment for AGP was laparoscopic cholecystectomy, with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) and sphincterotomy reserved for patients unfit for cholecystectomy and those with biliary sepsis. Results: 249 patients were identified of whom 36 (14.5%) underwent ERCP and sphincterotomy as definitive treatment. 96 patients with a non-dilated CBD and normal or resolving liver function tests proceeded to laparosocopic cholecystectomy and intraoperative cholangiogram (IOC), 8 (8.5%) of whom had CBD stones intraoperatively. Eleven patients underwent cholecystectomy during pancreatic necrosectomy. Of those undergoing preoperative diagnostic biliary tract imaging, ERCP was undertaken in 57 patients and MRCP in 49 patients. There was no significant difference in serum bilirubin levels [ERCP 43 mmol/l (18-204) vs. MRCP 39 mmol/l (24-180), p = NS] or the proportion of patients with CBD stones [ERCP 10 (17.5%) vs. MRCP 7 (14.2%), p = NS] between the two groups. Patients who underwent MRCP had a shorter median hospital stay [MRCP 5 days (range: 3-14) vs. ERCP 9 days (range: 4-20), p <0.01] and higher rate of cholecystectomy during the index admission (MRCP 83.3% vs. ERCP 67.2%, p <0.05). There was a high degree of correlation between preoperative MRCP results and findings of subsequent IOC or therapeutic ERCP (area under ROC curve: 0.94). Conclusions: MRCP is an accurate modality for imaging the axial biliary tree in patients with AGP. Selective use of MRCP reduces the need for ERCP and results in shorter hospital stay. Copyright (c) 2008 S. Karger AG, Basel and IAP.