ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography)

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an investigation, which can be performed as an outpatient procedure, used to examine the bile ducts which connect the liver to the small intestine and pancreas. You may have to have this test if you have experienced jaundice or abdominal pain or if your doctor suspects that your bile ducts may be blocked (with gallstones for example).

A thin, flexible video telescope called an endoscope is passed through the mouth into the stomach and the small intestine.  A dye which is visible on X-ray is then injected down the endoscope into the bile ducts. X-rays are then taken so that the pancreas and bile ducts can be seen.

If there are gallstones in the bile duct these can be caught in a tiny wire basket and removed and if the duct has narrowed a stent (small mesh tube) can be placed in it to hold it open. You will be asked not to eat or drink for at least 6 hours before the procedure to ensure that your stomach is completely empty and you will be given an injection of a sedative which will make you drowsy and relaxed for the procedure. If the doctor feels there is risk of infection, such as from a blocked bile duct, you will be given antibiotics. You should receive the results of the investigation within a fortnight, possibly before.

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