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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP)

How It Feels

You may notice a brief, sharp burning or stinging sensation when the IV is started in your arm. The local anesthetic sprayed into your throat usually tastes slightly bitter and will make your tongue and throat feel numb and swollen. Some people report feeling as though they cannot breathe sometimes because of the tube in their throat. This is a false sensation caused by the anesthetic. There is always plenty of breathing space around the tube in your mouth and throat. Remember to relax and take slow, deep breaths.

You may gag, feel nauseated or bloated, or have mild abdominal cramping as the tube is moved. If the discomfort is severe, alert your doctor with an agreed-upon signal or tap on the arm. Even though you won't be able to talk during the test, you can still communicate.

The IV medicines will make you feel sleepy, and you may not be able to remember much of what happens during or for several hours after the test. You may have heavy eyelids, difficulty speaking, a dry mouth, or blurred vision for several hours after the test.

You may have a flushing sensation when the contrast material is injected.

After the test

After the test, you may have gas and feel bloated for a while. You may also have a tickling, dry throat, slight hoarseness, or a mild sore throat for several days. Throat lozenges and gargling with warm saltwater can help relieve your throat symptoms.

Because of the IV medicines used during this test, do not drink alcohol, drive, or sign any legal documents for 24 hours after the test.

Risks

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) is a test that does have some risks. Having this test may cause serious problems, such as:

  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis).
  • Bleeding, which may occur if the pancreatic or bile ducts are widened during the procedure or if biopsies are taken during the ERCP.
  • Infection of the bile ducts, which may occur if gallstones were removed.
  • Infection of the blood (sepsis).
  • An abnormal heart rhythm.
  • A puncture of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, bile duct, or pancreatic duct. If this happens, you will need to have surgery to repair the puncture.
  • Problems caused by anesthesia.

After the test

After the test, call your doctor immediately if you:

  • Have nausea or vomiting.
  • Have new or increased belly pain.
  • Develop a fever or chills.
  • Feel short of breath.
  • Are dizzy or feel like you may faint.

People who have serious heart disease and older adults who have other chronic diseases have a greater chance of having problems from this test. Although complications are not common, talk to your doctor about your specific risks.

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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