Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) is a test to look at the tubes that carry fluids from the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. These tubes are called ducts.
For this test, the doctor will use a tool called an endoscope, or scope. It is a thin, lighted tube that bends. It has a camera on it that lets the doctor use pictures on a screen to guide it.
This test is used for different reasons. It can help find out the cause of your symptoms. If the test shows gallstones or a narrow spot in a bile duct, the doctor can use the scope to remove the stones or widen the duct. He or she may also put a metal or plastic tube in the duct. This can help open it.
Before the test, you may get medicine to numb the back of your throat. You also will get medicine to help you relax.
During the test, you will lie on your left side or on your stomach. The doctor puts the scope in your mouth and then gently moves it toward the back of your throat. The doctor will tell you when to swallow. This helps the scope move down your throat. You will be able to breathe normally.
After that, the doctor moves the scope through the tube (esophagus) that leads to your stomach, through your stomach, and into the first part of your small intestine. When the scope reaches the place where the bile ducts and the pancreas meet the small intestine, you may turn and lie on your stomach. The doctor then puts a small plastic tube into the scope to inject dye into the ducts. The dye helps the ducts show up on X-rays. Then the doctor takes X-ray pictures to help find any problems.
The test takes 30 minutes to 2 hours. You may go home the same day. But if you have treatment during the test, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.
Procedures can be stressful. This information will help you understand what you can expect. And it will help you safely prepare for your procedure.
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Current as of: March 27, 2018
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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