Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Procedure Questions

What is an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP)?

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) is both a therapeutic and diagnostic procedure. Your doctor uses an endoscope and x-rays to examine and treat problems in the gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreatic ducts.

Procedure Bullet Points

The Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) Is:

  • Well-tolerated
  • May be performed as an outpatient procedure
  • May require a local anesthetic
  • Or may require sedation if it is expected to be lengthy

For an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP), you’ll lay on your stomach as your doctor eases an endoscope down your esophagus, through the stomach, and into the upper portion of the small intestine.

Your doctor will find the opening to the bile and pancreatic ducts. Then a catheter will pass through the endoscope and into the ducts to inject dye. Finally, X-rays will be taken.

You may need an Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) to treat things like:

  • Gallstones/bile duct stones
  • Pancreatic pseudocysts
  • Bile duct leak
  • Stricture of the pancreatic and bile ducts

Your doctor will give you instructions to prepare for the Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) procedure.

Most likely, you will be asked to fast for at least 6 hours beforehand to ensure an empty stomach. Some patients are also given antibiotics in preparation.

Inform your doctor of:

  • Any medication that you take regularly, especially;
    • aspirin products
    • arthritis medications
    • blood thinners (such as Warfarin or Heparin)
    • Clopidogrel
    • Insulin
  • Any known allergies to medication
  • Any known allergies to dye
  • Any medical conditions that will require special attention, such as;
    • heart conditions
    • lung conditions
    • any other major conditions

You’ll need to plan for a ride home from the office as it is not advised for patients to drive for the remainder of the day due to effects from the medication.

It’s important to follow all of your doctor’s instructions.

You will lie on your abdomen during the Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP) procedure. It isn’t painful, but you might feel some bloating because of air introduced by the instrument.

Complications can occur, but are uncommon. They can include:

  • pancreatitis
  • infections
  • bowel perforation and bleeding
  • an adverse reaction to sedatives

Risks vary on a patient-by-patient basis. They can depend on what is found during the procedure, whether therapeutic intervention is undertaken, and whether a patient has other major medical problems.

Generally, therapeutic ERCP involves a higher risk than diagnostic ERCP.

You’ll be observed for complications until the effects from the medication wears off. Then you’ll be allowed to leave with your accompanying ride. It’s important not to drive as the medications may still affect your judgement and reflexes, even if you feel alert.

Once home, you may feel some bloating because of excess air and you can resume your normal diet, unless otherwise instructed.

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