What is an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)?

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an endoscopic procedure where a long, thin, flexible tube or "scope" is placed into the mouth and advanced to the duodenum or first portion of the small intestine. The scope has a light and a camera on the end of it which allows the physician to examine the lining of the esophagus, stomach, small intestine and opening to the bile duct and pancreatic duct. An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) may be performed to diagnose the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, pancreatitis, abnormal liver test, or abnormal x-ray results.

What to Expect

Since you will receive medication that is sedative in nature, you will not be allowed to drive a motor vehicle for at least 12 hours after the procedure. Be sure to have a friend or relative available to drive you home.

You will be asked to sign a consent authorizing the procedure. Please be aware that the principal risks associated with this procedure are infection, perforation, bleeding, pancreatitis and drug reaction. These complications seldom occur.

Please wear comfortable clothing. Leave jewelry and other valuables home.

Inform the nurses and doctor if there is any possibility of pregnancy, as x-rays will be taken.


During the Procedure

During the procedure, monitoring devices will be attached to your body which will measure your heart rate, heart rhythm, blood pressure and blood oxygen level.

You will be given a local anesthesia to numb your mouth, tongue and throat. An intravenous medication will be given to help you relax and become drowsy. When you are properly relaxed, the endoscope will be passed. Ordinarily, this is accomplished with ease due to the relaxing effect of the sedation. The tube does not interfere with your breathing.


After the Procedure

You will be moved to a recovery room where your family may join you. Your physician will then discuss the procedure with you.

Any discomfort following the procedure is generally limited to a sore throat and/or the need to “burp” the air that had been put into your stomach during the examination.

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