Doctor taking blood pressure of patient.

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

At Providence, we believe in providing the most precise diagnostic procedures in a caring and empathetic environment. By staying true to this belief, our doctors are able to use accurate screenings like endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to determine the causes of a wide range of pancreatic, liver and gallbladder conditions with detailed certainty.

ERCP is a type of diagnostic screening procedure that uses an endoscope in combination with an X-rays to produce clearer images of your gastrointestinal tract and its surrounding organs.

ERCP is useful in evaluating symptoms of liver and pancreatic conditions, as well diagnosing and treating problems in the gallbladder and bile ducts.

Similar to an upper endoscopy, your doctors will administer medications through an IV during your ERCP. An anesthetic spray is applied to the back of your throat to numb it. If necessary, a guard is placed in your mouth to keep it from closing. 

In order to view the gastrointestinal tract, a thin and responsive tube with a tiny camera at the end (endoscope) is inserted through your mouth and into your stomach and small intestine. Through a monitor, your doctor inspects and records the various regions of your digestive tract. 

Once the endoscope reaches your pancreatic and bile duct opening, a catheter injects a small amount of contrast dye into the duct. The dye helps produce detailed and clear images of the ducts on the X-ray screen and allows your doctor to see and analyze any blockages within them. 

Should your doctor notice any abnormalities during your ERCP they may take sample of tissue (biopsy) for further analysis or apply stents to prevent strictures. Your gastroenterologist may also make a small incision in your duct to drain bile and relieve pressure.

The procedure is generally painless and can last between one and three hours. Because the ERCP involves entry into the gastrointestinal tract, it’s important to not eat any solid foods at least six hours prior to your procedure. 

Despite the unlikelihood of a complication occurring during your ERCP, the procedure does carry certain risks. These include nausea, heartburn, soreness of the throat and difficulty swallowing, as well as drowsiness from the sedative medications. 

There is also a risk of pancreatitis (swelling of the pancreas) should a biopsy of the pancreas take place. It is also important to note that due to the X-rays involved in the procedure, there is a slight risk of radiation exposure.