ERCP (short for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) is a procedure used to diagnose diseases of the gallbladder, bile system, pancreas, and liver.
After receiving sedation, an endoscopist, usually a gastroenterologist (doctor who specializes in the gastrointestinal system), uses a special endoscope (a long, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end) to examine the inside of the digestive system. The endoscopist identifies the place where the bile duct comes into the intestine and then feeds a tiny catheter (a plastic tube) into the duct and squirts in a contrast agent into the bile system and sometimes the pancreas while X-rays are taken. The contrast agent allows the doctors to see the ducts of the bile system, gallbladder, and pancreas on the X-rays.
Once the source of the problem is identified, the doctor may then treat it by performing one of the following procedures:
ERCP carries with it a small risk of complications. Complications requiring hospitalization may occur; however, they are uncommon. These can include an inflammation of the pancreas known as pancreatitis, infections, bowel perforation, and bleeding. Patients may experience tenderness or a lump where the sedative was injected, but that should go away in a few days. Your doctor will discuss your risk of possible complications before the test.
You will need to bring a responsible adult to accompany you after the procedure. You should not drive or operate machinery for at least eight hours because the medication given during the procedure may cause drowsiness.
You may need to stay overnight in the hospital after the procedure, so pack personal items you may need.
The results will be sent to your primary care or referring doctor, who will discuss them with you. If the results of the procedure indicate that prompt medical attention is needed, the necessary arrangements will be made and your referring doctor will be notified.
If you have severe abdominal pain, a continuous cough, fever, chills, chest pain, nausea, or vomiting within 72 hours after the procedure, call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room.
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This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition.
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