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During ERCP, doctors use an endoscope and X-rays to view injectable dye as it travels through pancreatic and bile ducts. ERCP helps providers diagnose and treat gallstones, inflamed gallbladders, bile duct blockages, pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and other conditions.

Why and when is it done

ERCP is performed to diagnose and treat problems that affect the:

  • Bile ducts, including cancer, stones and strictures.
  • Gallbladder, including gallstones and cholecystitis (inflamed gallbladder).
  • Pancreas, including pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and pancreatic cysts and pseudocysts.

Benefits of ERCP

  • Direct visualization and evaluation of the bile ducts and pancreatic ducts for better diagnosis
  • ERCP can be used to remove gallstones that have migrated from the gallbladder and become lodged in the bile ducts
  • ERCP can be used to dilate or widen narrowed or blocked bile ducts
  • ERCP can be used to dilate or widen narrowed or blocked bile ducts
  • During ERCP, tissue samples (biopsies) can be obtained from the bile ducts or pancreas for further examination.
  • ERCP is a minimally invasive procedure with faster recovery and shorter stay

Risks associated with ERCP

Risks associated with ERCP Rare but potential complications include:

  • Gallbladder or bile duct infection.
  • Hole (perforation) in stomach, ducts or small intestine.
  • Inflamed, swollen pancreas (pancreatitis).
  • Internal bleeding.
  • Allergic reaction to the dye used during the procedure

How is the procedure performed

ERCP is usually an outpatient procedure which can take upto a couple of hours. During a diagnostic ERCP.

  • Anesthesia is used to numb the throat
  • The endoscope is inserted into your mouth and guided through the esophagus and stomach to reach the upper part of the small intestine (duodenum).
  • Air is pumped through the endoscope into the stomach and duodenum to make it easier to see organs.
  • A different tube, called a catheter is inserted into the endoscope until it reaches the bile and pancreatic ducts.
  • A special dye is injected through the catheter.
  • Video gastrointestinal X-rays (fluoroscopy) are taken as the dye travels through the ducts.
  • Signs of blockage or problems are checked

For treatment, your doctor may insert tiny instruments through the endoscope to:

  • Break up and remove stones.
  • Place stents to open blocked or narrowed ducts.
  • Remove tumors or tissue samples to biopsy.