Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

ERCP (Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) is a procedure in which a flexible lighted tube is passed through the mouth, esophagus, and stomach into the upper small intestine for direct visualization of the common opening to ducts from the liver and pancreas. Once this is identified, a narrow plastic tube is passed through the scope into the ducts. A contrast material or "dye" is gently injected and x-ray pictures are taken which assist the physician in evaluating your condition.

What to expect:
At the beginning of the procedure, an anesthetic (numbing medicine) may be applied to your throat, and your doctor may give you medication through a vein to help you relax and better tolerate any discomfort from the procedure. Sometimes a patient will also receive an antibiotic before the procedure. The procedure will begin with you lying on your left side. The scope will be passed through your throat, stomach and small intestine. The instrument used will not interfere with your breathing. Because air is introduced through the tube, you may feel some bloating during and after the procedure. The injection of the contrast material ("dye") into the ducts rarely causes any discomfort. The ERCP is generally well tolerated. You will usually be kept under observation until most of the effects from the medication have worn off. Complications from the procedure are uncommon, and may vary based on your personal health, the reason for the procedure, what might be found during the procedure and any therapy performed. Your physician will tell you about your likelihood of complications. You may resume your usual diet unless instructed otherwise. Your throat may feel scratchy or sore after the procedure.

For the best possible examination, you need to have a completely empty stomach. This means you will need to have nothing by mouth for at least 6-8 hours and preferably overnight before the procedure. Be sure to inform your doctor about any medication you take and the physician can direct you about which medicines you should take. You will also need to refrain from taking blood thinners or any medication containing aspirin or ibuprofen for 5 days before your procedure. If you receive any sedation, you will need for someone to take you home since it would not be safe for you to drive.

For more information, please visit the American Society Gastrointestinal Endoscope’s website: Understanding ERCP

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