• Overview

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An endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatogram (or ERCP) is a procedure to look for any problems in your bile duct or pancreatic duct using a flexible tube with a camera and light at the end called an endoscope.

If your consultant finds a problem, they may be able to treat it during the procedure.

What happens during my ERCP?

An ERCP usually takes between half an hour and three-quarters of an hour. You may be given a sedative to help you relax. You may also have an IV drip to ensure you have enough fluids and administer antibiotics if necessary. Your consultant will spray local anaesthetic in the back of your throat meaning this area will be numb throughout the procedure. 

Once the anaesthetic has taken affect your consultant will pass the endoscope into the back of your throat and down into your stomach. From here the endoscope will pass on into your duodenum.

The endoscope is then positioned to look at the papilla. A fine tube is placed through the endoscope and into the bile duct or pancreatic duct through the papilla. A colourless fluid (called a contrast agent) is injected into the ducts and x-ray pictures are taken that show the ducts. 

If there are gallstones in the bile duct, they can usually be removed. Your consultant can insert a tube called a stent to relieve jaundice caused by large gallstones or a narrowing of the bile duct.

After your ERCP

If you are given a sedative, you will normally recover in about an hour. You may feel a bit bloated for a few hours but this will pass. You should be able to go home the same day of the procedure but please have someone drive you once you are discharged. 

A member of the team will tell you what was found during the ERCP and will discuss with you any treatment or follow-up you need. 

You may develop a sore throat or dry mouth and slight hoarseness. Throat lozenges and saltwater gargles can ease these symptoms.

You should be able to go back to work two days after the ERCP. 

Most people make a good recovery and return to normal activities following ERCP.

Specific complications of ERCP:

  • Infection of the bile duct (cholangitis)
  • Making a hole in the oesophagus, stomach or duodenum 
  • Bleeding 
  • Damage to teeth or bridgework 
  • Allergic reaction
  • Breathing difficulties or heart irregularities 
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis) 
  • Incomplete procedure

Why not print this treatment page so you can discuss any concerns you have with your consultant?

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