Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

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What is ERCP?

ERCP.jpgEndoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or ERCP is an endoscopic technique utilized to take X-rays of the drainage routes (ducts) of the liver, pancreas and gallbladder. Your doctor may recommend you receive this procedure if they suspect gallstones are present in your gallbladder or if you are experiencing pancreatic problems and abdominal pain.

How do I prepare for this exam?

Because your stomach must be completely empty, you should not eat or drink anything six hours before the procedure. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking certain medicines, such as aspirin, or any other blood thinners.

What happens during an ERCP?

First a nurse will place an IV in a vein in your arm or hand. Then, your throat will be numbed using a local anesthetic. During the procedure, you will be awake but mildly sedated, so you’ll experience no discomfort. While lying on your left side, your doctor will insert the endoscope through your mouth and gently guide it through the esophagus and stomach into the duodenum; the first section of the small intestine. Dye is injected into the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts through a small plastic tube (catheter), which is passed through the endoscope. X-rays are taken, and depending on what is identified, your doctor may need to obtain a biopsy, widen narrow ducts, or remove gallstones. The exam typically lasts 20 to 40 minutes; after which; you will be transported to a recovery area.

What happens after the exam?

Once the ERCP is complete, we will monitor you for 30 minutes to an hour until most of the sedative has worn off. Your throat may be sore. Your doctor will provide the results of your exam in writing as well as detailed instructions. You’ll need someone to drive you home after the exam.

Are there any possible complications?

When performed by one of our board certified gastroenterologists, an ERCP is generally safe. Complications, if any, are rare. You may experience temporary bloating and nausea.

Other complications include bowel perforation, bleeding or infection, which, for the most part, can be treated without surgery. If you experience fever and/or severe pain and bleeding, please contact our office.