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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.

Your doctor may be able to discuss some of the findings with you immediately after the test. But the medicines used to relax you for an ERCP may impair your memory. So your doctor may tell you to call the next day for your results.

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP)
  • Contrast material shows normal structure and size of the bile ducts, pancreatic ducts, hepatic ducts, and gallbladder.
  • The esophagus, stomach, duodenum, bile ducts, pancreatic ducts, and hepatic ducts look normal.
  • Pressure in the bile ducts, pancreatic ducts, and hepatic ducts is normal.
  • The bile, pancreatic, or hepatic ducts are narrowed or blocked. This may be caused by gallstones, scar tissue, inflammation, or cancer.
  • Inflammation, ulcers, infection, pseudocysts, or cancer of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, gallbladder, or pancreas is identified.
  • Pressure in the bile ducts, pancreatic ducts, or hepatic ducts is not normal.

What Affects the Test

Reasons you may not be able to have the test or why the results may not be helpful include:

What To Think About

  • Other less invasive and less expensive tests, such as a CT scan, MRI scan, or an abdominal ultrasound, may be done before ERCP to evaluate abdominal pain or jaundice.
  • An imaging test, a magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatogram (MRCP), can be used to view the bile ducts and to diagnose medical conditions. MRCP doesn't allow biopsies or treatments to be done during the test.
  • Another test, endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), uses a small ultrasound probe at the end of the endoscope and may offer a more detailed view of parts of the digestive tract than ERCP. EUS also allows the doctor to see certain organs of the body adjacent to the digestive tract, such as the pancreas and bile ducts. EUS may help diagnose noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant) tumors of the esophagus, stomach, pancreas, and bile ducts.
  • If your doctor removes a gallstone or places a stent during your ERCP, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.
  • Because air is used during ERCP to open the bile and pancreatic ducts, you may feel bloated and notice a temporary change in your bowel habits. Notify your doctor if you experience bleeding from the rectum or your stools look black or bloody.
  • Depending on the ERCP results, you may need other tests, such as angiography or laparoscopy, to confirm a diagnosis. Surgery may be needed to treat a problem found with ERCP.

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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