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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP)


Complications are not common. But having this test may cause serious problems, such as:

  • Inflammation of the pancreas. (This is called pancreatitis.)
  • Bleeding. This may occur if the pancreatic or bile ducts were widened, if a stent was placed, or if biopsies were taken.
  • Infection of the bile ducts, which may occur if gallstones were removed.
  • Infection of the blood. (This is called 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 right away if you:

  • Have nausea or vomiting.
  • Have new or increased belly pain.
  • Get 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. Talk to your doctor about your specific risks.


An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram test checks the tubes (ducts) that drain the liver camera.gif, gallbladder camera.gif, and pancreas camera.gif. A flexible, lighted scope (endoscope) and X-ray pictures are used.

Your doctor may be able to tell you about some findings right after the test. But the medicines used to relax you for the test 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 and the ducts that drain the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.
  • The esophagus camera.gif, stomach, and duodenum look normal.
  • Pressure in the ducts is normal.
  • The ducts are narrowed or blocked. This may be caused by gallstones, scar tissue, inflammation, or cancer.
  • Inflammation, ulcers, infection, or pseudocysts are seen.
  • Cancer of the esophagus, stomach, duodenum, gallbladder, or pancreas is found.
  • Pressure in the ducts is not normal.

What Affects the Test

You may not be able to have the test, or the results may not be helpful, if:

  • You have barium contrast material in your intestines. This may be from a barium enema test.
  • You have a condition that affects how blood clots, or you take blood thinning medicines such as warfarin.
  • You have an infection such as pancreatitis or diverticulitis.
  • You are pregnant.
  • You can't stay still during the test.

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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