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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP)

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) is a test that combines the use of a flexible, lighted scope (endoscope) with X-ray pictures to examine the tubes that drain the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

The endoscope is inserted through the mouth and gently moved down the throat into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum until it reaches the point where the ducts from the pancreas (pancreatic ducts) and gallbladder (bile ducts) drain into the duodenum.

ERCP can treat certain problems found during the test. If an abnormal growth is seen, an instrument can be inserted through the endoscope to obtain a sample of the tissue for further testing (biopsy). If a gallstone is present in the common bile duct, the doctor can sometimes remove the stone with instruments inserted through the endoscope. A narrowed bile duct can be opened by inserting a small wire-mesh or plastic tube (called a stent) through the endoscope and into the duct.

Why It Is Done

ERCP is done to:

  • Check persistent abdominal pain or jaundice.
  • Find gallstones or diseases of the liver, bile ducts, or pancreas.
  • Remove gallstones from the common bile duct if they are causing a problem such as blockage (obstruction), inflammation or infection of the common bile duct (cholangitis), or pancreatitis.
  • Open a narrowed bile duct or insert a drain.
  • Get a tissue sample for further testing (biopsy).
  • Measure the pressure inside the bile ducts (manometry).

How To Prepare

Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking, or your test may be canceled. If your doctor has instructed you to take your medicines on the day of the test, please do so using only a sip of water.

If your doctor prescribed antibiotics before the test, take them as directed. You need to take the full course of antibiotics.

Tell your doctor if you:

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have regarding the need for the test, its risks, how it will be done, or what the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this test, fill out the medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).

You will be asked to empty your bladder and remove any dentures, jewelry, or contact lenses before having an ERCP.

How It Is Done

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) is done by a doctor trained in endoscopy, usually a doctor who specializes in diseases of the digestive system (gastroenterologist). A thin, flexible fiber-optic endoscope is used.

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WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 08, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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