What is ERCP?

What is ERCP?

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, is a specialized technique used to study the ducts of the gall bladder, pancreas and liver. Ducts are drainage routes: the drainage channels from the liver are called bile or biliary ducts.

During ERCP, your doctor will pass an endoscope through your mouth, esophagus and stomach into the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). An endoscope is a thin, flexible tube that lets your doctor see inside your bowels. After your doctor sees the common opening to your ducts from the liver and pancreas, your doctor will pass a narrow plastic tube called a catheter through the endoscope and into the ducts. Your doctor will inject a contrast material (dye) into the pancreatic or biliary ducts and will take x-rays.

What Preparation Is Required?
You should fast for at least six hours (and preferably overnight) before the procedure to make sure you have an empty stomach, which is necessary for the best examination.

You should talk to your doctor about medications you take regularly and an allergy you have to medications. Tell your doctor if you have any allergies to iodine-containing drugs, which include contrast materials. Although an allergy doesn't prevent you from having ERCP, it's important to discuss it with your doctor prior to the procedure.

Also, be sure to tell your doctor if you have heart or lung conditions, or other major diseases.

What Can I Expect During ERCP?
Your doctor might apply a local anesthetic to your throat or give you a sedative to make you more comfortable. Some patients also receive antibiotics before the procedure. You will lie on you left side and an X-ray table. Your doctor will pass the endoscope through your mouth, esophagus, stomach, and into the duodenum. The instrument does not interfere with breathing, but you might feel a bloating sensation because of the air introduced through the instrument.

What Are The Possible Complications Of ERCP?
ERCP is a well-tolerated procedure when performed by doctors who are specially trained and experienced in the technique. Although complications can occur, they are uncommon. Complications can include pancreatitis (an inflammation or infection of the pancreas), infections, bowel perforation and bleeding. Some patients can have an adverse reaction to the sedative used. Complications are often managed without surgery.

Risks vary, depending on why the test is performed, what is found during the procedure, what therapeutic intervention is undertaken, and whether a patient has major medical problems. Patients undergoing therapeutic ERCP, such as for stone removal, face a higher risk of complications than a patient undergoing diagnostic ERCP. Your doctor will discuss your likelihood of complications before you undergo the test.

What Can I Expect After ERCP?
If you have ERCP as an outpatient, you will be observed for complications until most of the effects of the medications have worn off. You might experience bloating or pass gas because of the air introduced during the examination. You can resume your usual diet unless you are restricted otherwise.

Someone must accompany you home from the procedure because of the sedatives used during the examination. Even if you feel alert after the procedure, the sedative can affect your judgment and reflexes for the rest of the day.

Important Reminder
The preceding information is intended only to provide general information and not as a definitive basis for diagnosis or treatment in any particular case. It is very important that you consult you doctor about your specific condition.