ERCP is the endoscopic procedure for the examination of the bile ducts and the pancreatic duct. The exam is done under anesthesia. The endoscope is inserted orally and gently moved into the stomach and then into the second part of the duodenum where the small opening of the bile duct and pancreatic duct is located.
ERCP can help diagnose and treat various biliary and pancreatic conditions and symptoms, such as
- Obstruction of bile ducts e.g. from stones
- Biliary or pancreatic cancer
During the ERCP, more specialized interventions include:
- Placement of a stent to relieve obstruction
- Sphincterotomy, i.e. a small incision in the opening of the ducts to allow better access to the bile ducts
- Biopsy and cytological testing, i.e. tissue and cells for microscopic examination.
The duration of the test varies, but usually is over 30 minutes, depending on the complexity. Generally ERCP is a safe procedure. However, it is important to know that this is a special intervention and involves some risks, but these are statistically uncommon:
- Pancreatic irritation and inflammation (pancreatitis)
- Perforation of the duodenum
- Anesthetic drug reaction
The following information is useful for proper preparation before ERCP:
- Your doctor should know all the medicines you are taking, including non-prescription medicines, aspirin, and blood anticoagulants
- Possible allergies
- Problems with anesthesia or cardiac and respiratory problems, pacemakers, defibrillators
- Problems with swallowing
- Problems with the neck or a history of orthopedic surgery
- If you have diabetes, you may need to alter the dosage of insulin or other medicines for diabetes
- Examination is done using X-rays
- You must have a responsible family member or a friend to take you home after ERCP. You may need to be hospitalized for one night for observation.