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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

What is an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)?

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is typically an outpatient procedure that lets your doctor examine your biliary tree and bile ducts. Under certain circumstances ERCP can allow your doctor to examine your pancreatic duct. An ERCP is used to evaluate and treat certain disorders including gallstones, narrowing of strictures in biliary and pancreatic ducts. It can also be used to obtain biopsy and brushing samples from those areas.

What is it used for?

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is an effective way to diagnose and treat a variety of disorders:

Before the procedure

When your endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is scheduled you will receive detailed instructions regarding what you need to do to prepare for the procedure. Please make sure you read them carefully and follow as instructed. Your doctor will ask you not to eat anything four to six hours before your procedure.

Make sure you arrive to the procedure site at the time specified by your doctor’s office. Upon arrival, the staff will complete the registration process and you will be evaluated by the medical team. The pre procedure evaluation by your doctor and anesthesia team will take place and an intravenous line will be inserted so you can receive sedation for the procedure.

During the procedure

Once the patient’s pre procedure evaluation is completed you will be taken to the procedure room. You will be asked to lie on your left side and we will place a plastic mouth piece to protect your teeth and the duodenum scope. Once you are sedated and comfortable the doctor will insert a duodenum scope (long flexible tube with a light and camera on the end) to examine the inside of the digestive system. The doctor will identify the major papilla (spot where your bile duct opens into the small bowel) and will then feed a small catheter into the bile duct. Your doctor will then use a combination of x-rays, contrast agent, and endoscopic images to complete the exam. Depending on the condition, the doctor may perform additional interventions during the procedure. These include removal of gallstones using special devices, sphincterotomy (a small incision in the opening of the bile duct), and on occasions a stent placement.

After the procedure

You will be monitored until most of the effects of the sedatives have worn off. Your doctor will explain the results of the examination to you. If biopsies were performed you will have to wait a few days for those results to become available. You must have a driver take you home.

Is the procedure safe?

Any procedure carries a small amount of risk and potential complications. These risks will be discussed with you in detail prior to the procedure and before the patient provides consent. Some of the risks with ERCP include:

  • Infections
  • Bleeding
  • Inflammation of pancreas known as pancreatitis
  • Perforation or creating a hole in the bowel

Contact us

Call (412) 359-8900 to request an appointment or to learn more about endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatographies (ERCP). Our team remains available to answer your questions anytime beyond your clinic visit.