ERCP What is an ERCP?

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an investigation used to view and if necessary biopsy the gallbladder, bile duct, pancreas, and pancreatic duct. Minor surgery can also be carried out during the procedure.

Preparation for an ERCP

Usually you will be lightly sedated before the outpatient procedure and will have little recollection of the event. You will usually be asked to fast for a number of hours before the procedure, to ensure that your stomach is empty. Let your doctor know if you have any allergies to antibiotics or other medicines, or intravenous contrast material. Because X-rays are used in the procedure, it’s important to tell your doctor if you might be pregnant. As a sedative is used, you will need someone to take you home after the procedure – and you won’t be allowed to drive until the next day.

How is ERCP performed?

In ERCP, the doctor threads an endoscope — a long, thin, flexible tube with a light at the end — down your oesophagus (gullet), through your stomach and into the duodenum. The doctor then looks through the endoscope to find the duodenal papilla (ampulla of Vater). This is the point where the pancreatic duct (from the pancreas) and the common bile duct (from the gallbladder and liver) empty their secretions into the duodenum.

After finding the duodenal papilla, the doctor will pass a small plastic tube called a catheter down through the endoscope and use this to inject special dye into the pancreatic and bile ducts. The special dye is a contrast material that shows up on X-rays which the doctor takes.