ERCP: Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) procedure is used mostly to treat problems of the pancreas or bile ducts. These problems can cause abdominal pain (usually in the right upper or middle stomach area), and jaundice, yellowing of the skin and eyes.

An ERCP procedure may be used to:

  • Open the entry of the ducts into the bowel (sphincterotomy)
  • Stretch out narrow segments (bile duct strictures)
  • Remove or crush gallstones
  • Take tissue samples to diagnose:
    • Tumors of the pancreas, bile ducts or gallbladder
    • Conditions called biliary cirrhosis, a disease in which the bile ducts in your liver are slowly destroyed
    • Drain blocked areas

How it's performed

An intravenous (IV) line is placed in your arm. You'll lie on your stomach or left side. Medication to relax or sedate you will be given intravenously. You should not feel any discomfort and may have little or no memory of the test.

Sometimes the doctor will use a spray to numb the throat. A mouthguard will protect your teeth. After the sedative takes effect, the endoscope is inserted through the mouth, esophagus and stomach until it reaches the duodenum, the part of the small intestine closest to the stomach.

Once the scope is in place, there will be some stretching of the stomach and duodenum.

A catheter (a thin tube), is passed through the endoscope and inserted into the ducts leading to the pancreas and gallbladder. A special dye is injected into these ducts, and X-rays taken. This helps the doctor see stones, tumors and any areas that have become narrowed.

Special instruments can be placed through the endoscope and into the ducts.

After completion of an ERCP procedure

The air used to inflate the stomach and bowel during an ERCP procedure can cause some bloating or gas for about 24 hours. After the procedure, you may have a sore throat for the first day or up to three to four days.

Most often, you'll want to drink fluids and eat only a light meal on the day after the procedure.

Request a referral

Scottsdale Osborn Medical Center: 480-882-5740

Scottsdale Shea Medical Center: 480-424-7228

Scottsdale Thompson Peak Medical Center: 480-882-7510

Deer Valley Medical Center: 623-580-5390

John C. Lincoln Medical Center: 602-943-2381