Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio- Pancreatography

Are you aware of the term Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio- Pancreatography or ERCP? Do you know why is it done? This blog would provide you every detail of this medical procedure.

ERCP is a procedure that helps your doctor to see the small tubes inside your body called the pancreatic and bile ducts that carry digestive juices from your liver and pancreas to the intestines and are placed near the stomachs.

In short, Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio- Pancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure that combines upper gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopy and x-rays to treat problems of the bile and pancreatic ducts.

For ERCP, your doctor uses a flexible lighted tube called an “endoscope.” The endoscope, or scope, is about as thick as your index finger. It goes through your mouth into your stomach and the first part of the small intestine, called the “duodenum.” Then the doctor puts a very small, flexible plastic tube through the scope and injects some dye that shows up on X-rays. This procedure allows your doctor to see the ducts and how well they are working.


Why is ERCP done?

Doctors do ERCP to find and treat problems in the pancreatic duct and bile duct. For example, you might have ERCP if your doctor suspects a disease of the pancreas or liver or a problem in the bile ducts. ERCP helps your doctor decide whether you need surgery and if you do, which surgery is best suited to you.

ERCP is carried out by doctors when your bile or pancreatic ducts have become narrowed or blocked because of:

1.Gallstones that form in your gallbladder and become stuck in your common bile duct


3.Acute pancreatitis

4.Chronic pancreatitis

5.Trauma or surgical complications in your bile or pancreatic ducts

6.Pancreatic pseudo cysts

7.Tumours or cancers of the bile ducts

8.Tumours or cancers of the pancreas

The common symptoms for carrying out ERCP include

1.Yellow skin or eyes (jaundice), light stool and dark urine

2.Stones in the bile or pancreas duct

3.A lesion or tumour in the pancreas, gallbladder or liver

However, do talk with your doctor about any allergies and medical conditions you have and all that were being prescribed early. Do inform your doctor if you are pregnant. The doctor in that case, may make changes to protect the foetus; though research revealed that ERCP is generally safe during ERCP procedure.

Your doctor might go for ERCP before or after gallbladder surgery in specific situations. For example, they can find and remove gallstones from the bile duct and sometimes from the pancreas.

ERCP can be used to detect cancer or non-cancerous lesions. If your bile duct is blocked, your doctor may use ERCP to put in a small plastic tube called a “stent”. This keeps the duct open and digestive juices flowing. Finally, ERCP can help find and treat problems following gallbladder surgery.


Getting Ready for ERCP

Before ERCP to be done, your doctor will discuss everything with you. You might need a full physical check-up; or need some tests.

However, you may need to follow the given instructions:

1.Stop eating and drinking before surgery

2.You may take medicine on the day of surgery, as instructed by your doctor.

3.You might need to stop taking certain medicines before surgery.

4.If you have a shellfish or iodine allergy, tell your doctor.


About ERCP results

You will get to know the ERCP result usually on the day of the procedure, itself. However, several days are needed to get to know the information, if your doctor took a small sample of tissue, called a biopsy. The results take longer time because a laboratory is required to examine and test the tissue.


Possible ERCP complications

Complications, can happen with any medical procedure, but, they are rare with ERCP.

The most common problem after ERCP is a condition called “pancreatitis.” This happens when the duct to the pancreas is irritated by the X-ray dye or small plastic tube used in ERCP. This can cause abdominal pain that gets worse instead of better after the procedure.

Other problems are possible if your doctor did any treatment during your ERCP, such as removing stones or putting in a small drain called a stent. These treatments have a small risk of causing bleeding or making a hole in the intestine or bile duct. Rarely, people who have bleeding after the procedure may need a blood transfusion to replace the lost blood, but this is rare. Another very rare risk is the risk of infection transmission from scopes.

It is important for you to know the early signs of possible complications. After ERCP, if you face symptoms such as severe belly pain, fever, pain, vomiting tendency, blood in stool. Do seek doctor’s advice, immediately.

The Gastroenterology department of Neotia Getwel Healthcare Centre provides care for a range of gastrointestinal disorders and diseases related to esophagus, small intestine, pancreas, gall bladder & bile duct, etc. With advanced set up that help to carry out major endoscopy & radiology procedures for GI, liver etc.


Though all attempts are made to provide correct information on the subject, inadvertent & typographical errors arising out of manual intervention cannot be ruled out. It is requested to bring any such discrepancies to the notice of the blogger for correction.