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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Side viewing endoscope. Side viewing endoscope.

ERCP is a diagnostic procedure used to examine the biliary tree (the gallbladder, bile and pancreatic ducts). ERCP combines X-ray and endoscopy, allowing your physician to obtain high-quality images of the anatomy.

Your doctor may use this procedure to identify any strictures (narrowing) in your bile and pancreatic ducts and to biopsy abnormalities and gallstones.

ERCP: How to Prepare

Before your ERCP:

  • You may not eat anything for six to eight hours before your procedure. This ensures that your gastrointestinal tract does not have any food products that may interfere with the images.
  • Inform your doctor if you have any allergies, especially to iodine.
  •  Your doctor will also instruct you regarding taking any medication.
A: Normal biliary and pancreatic ducts during an ERCP; B: ERCP image. A: Normal biliary and pancreatic ducts during an ERCP; B: ERCP image

ERCP: What to Expect

On the day of the procedure, arrive at the endoscopy suite approximately one to two hours before your procedure. A responsible adult should accompany you in order to take you home. You will register and give your medical history.

During the procedure, your doctor:

  1. Inserts an intravenous line to administer fluids and a sedative. You lie down on your left side.
  2. Positions a special endoscope called a duodenoscope into your mouth, until it reaches your duodenum (part of the small intestine).
  3. Passes a catheter through the duodenoscope to inject dye into your pancreatic and biliary ducts.
  4. Takes X-ray images. The dye highlights any abnormalities, such as stones, tumors or strictures.

After you recover from the effects of the medication, your doctor will discuss the results with you.