What is an ERCP?

ERCP, or endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, is a procedure that examines the tubes that drain the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. The test combines the use of a flexible, lighted scope (endoscope) with X-ray pictures.

It is used to provide important information that cannot typically be obtained by other diagnostic examinations such as an abdominal ultrasound, CT scan or MRI.

Why is an ERCP done?

ERCP may be used to:

  • Remove or crush gallstones
  • Check persistent abdominal pain or jaundice.
  • Open the entry of the ducts into the bowel
  • Stretch out narrow segments
  • Take tissue samples
  • Drain blocked areas

What can I expect on the day of the procedure?

  • An intravenous (IV) line is placed in your arm and a medication will be given to relax or sedate you.
  • You will lie on your stomach or left side.
  • A spray to numb the throat will be given and a mouth guard will be placed in your mouth to protect your teeth.
  • After the sedative takes effect, the endoscope is inserted in your mouth.
  • You should not feel discomfort and may have little memory of the test
  • A thin tube is passed through the endoscope and inserted into the ducts that lead to the pancreas and gallbladder. A special dye is injected into these ducts and x-rays are taken. This helps the doctor see stones, tumors and any areas that have become narrowed.

What happens after the procedure?

  • You will need to have someone drive you home.
  • You’ll notice some bloating or gas for about 24 hours after the procedure.
  • You may have a sore throat for a few days.
  • Avoid heavy lifting for the first 48 hours after your procedure.
  • Use a heating pad or acetaminophen to relieve pain and bloating.
  • Drink fluids and eat light meals right after your procedure.
  • Call your doctor if you have abdominal pain or severe bloating, bleeding from the rectum, black stools, fever or nausea/vomiting.