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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP)

How To Prepare

Follow the instructions exactly about when to stop eating and drinking, or your test may be canceled. If your doctor told you to take your medicines on the day of the test, 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:

  • Have hay fever, hives, food or medicine allergies, or asthma.
  • Are allergic to shellfish (shrimp, scallops, lobster). Also tell your doctor if you are allergic to iodine, such as that used in the contrast material for X-ray tests.
  • Have had a digestive tract study that used barium, such as a barium enema, within the last week.
  • Are taking blood-thinning medicines, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin). You may need to stop these medicines for a while before you have the test.

Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have about 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. You will also need to remove any dentures, jewelry, or contact lenses before you have this test.

How It Is Done

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) is usually done by a gastroenterologist. This is a doctor who has special training in diseases of the digestive system. The doctor must be trained in endoscopy. A thin, flexible fiber-optic endoscope (scope) is used.

This test is done in the hospital. You may have to stay overnight if your doctor takes out gallstones or places a stent during the test. Otherwise, you can go home after the test.

An ERCP usually takes 30 to 60 minutes. You will be in the recovery room 1 to 2 hours.

Your throat may be numbed with an anesthetic spray, gargle, or lozenge to relax your gag reflex. This makes it easier to insert the scope. Shortly before the test begins, an intravenous (IV) line will be placed in a vein in your arm. You will get pain medicine and a sedative through the IV during the test. You may also get an antibiotic through the IV.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 14, 2014
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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