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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP)


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.


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 camera.gif, gallbladder camera.gif, and pancreas camera.gif.

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 camera.gif, 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.
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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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