ERCP is a test that combines video endoscopy and x-ray techniques to examine the pancreatic and bile ducts as well as the duodenum and gall bladder. A long, flexible tube equipped with a camera is inserted down the throat to view the ducts and also inject dye needed for accompanying x-rays. The x-rays take detailed pictures of the ducts to identify any abnormalities such as narrowing, widening, or obstruction.
It is used to diagnose conditions such as pancreatitis, gallstones, bile duct tumors, bile duct injury or obstruction, pancreatic cancer, jaundice, and recurrent upper abdominal pain that can't be explained by other procedures. ERCP can also perform therapeutic functions such as enlarging narrowed areas or removal of gallstones.
Risks associated with the procedure are generally limited to perforation (a puncture or small hole), bleeding, or the development of pancreatitis, all of which are rare. Reaction to the sedatives, medications, or dyes used is also a possibility, so it is important to discuss your prior medical history with your doctor.
What to Expect
Because the procedure is best performed on an empty stomach, you will need to refrain from eating and drinking for at least six hours prior to the test (overnight if your procedure is scheduled for the morning). You may need to discontinue some medications such as aspirin and blood thinners. Be sure to discuss your medical history, current medications, and any allergies (especially to pain medications and antibiotics) with your doctor.
Before the procedure begins, you will be given intravenous sedatives and/or pain medication that will make you feel relaxed and drowsy as well as a topical anesthetic for the throat. The endoscope will be inserted down the throat and through the stomach to the duodenum. You may feel a gagging sensation as the tube is inserted.
In addition to visual inspection of the area, dye will be injected via the tube into the bile and pancreatic ducts. X-rays will also be taken to closely examine these ducts for blockages, tumors, or other abnormalities. If needed, gallstones can be removed, blocked ducts can be widened with stents, and tissue can be sampled for biopsy. At the end of the procedure, which can last anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, the endoscope is drawn back up through the digestive track and removed.
When the procedure is finished, you will remain under observation as the effects of the sedatives wear off. Side effects may include a sore throat or bloated and gassy feeling, both of which are generally mild and short-lived. You will need to have someone drive you home from the test and you should plan on resting for the remainder of the day. Generally you can begin eating again after a few hours, but your physician will give you specific instructions regarding this. If you experience blood in your stool, severe abdominal pain, vomiting, or high fever, contact your doctor as this may signal a more serious complication.
ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography). We offer treatments for patients residing in Chicago (Lincoln Park, Lake View, Bucktown, West Town, Logan Square, Hermosa, Belmont Cragin, Belmont Gardens, Avondale, North Center, Irving Park, Portage Park, Albany Park Lincoln Square, Near West Side, East Garfield Park, Humboldt Park, Pilsen, Downtown) and Chicago Suburbs (Oak Park, Cicero, Harwood Heights, Norridge, Elmwood Park, River Grove, River Forest, Berwy, Skokie, Morton Grove, Park Ridge, Franklin Park, Melrose Park, Maywood, Stone Park Schiller Park).