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What is ERCP - Endoscopic retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a test that allows the examination and instrumentation of the pancreas and bile ducts using x-rays.

What can I expect?

You will have either sedation or full anaesthesia for this procedure. In the examination room you will be made comfortable on a couch, lying on your front. The consultant will then gently insert a flexible tube (endoscope) into your mouth through your stomach and into your small intestine where the ampulla of Vater (the opening of the common bile duct and pancreatic duct) is visualised.

X-rays are used to look for blockages, or other lesions such as stones. When needed, the opening of the ampulla can be enlarged with an electrified wire and access into the bile duct obtained so that gallstones may be removed or other therapy performed.

Are there any Risks?

ERCP is a safe examination, but problems can occur and these will be explained by your consultant. The two most important are:

Perforation – this is a tear in the lining of the small intestine, which can happen during the test. It may not need treating at all, but it could require surgery, in which case you would need to stay in hospital.

Bleeding - minor bleeding is of no concern, however, it is possible for more significant bleeding to occur up to two weeks after the procedure..

Other – This test can sometimes cause inflammation of the pancreas (pacreatitis) or infection.

If you are concerned please contact your GP, the Endoscopy Centre or your local Accident and Emergency department.

After the test

As you have had sedation, you will feel sleepy. The nurses will advise you when you can eat and drink.It will take some time for the sedation to where off during which you will stay in the department.

Going home?

If you are having an ERCP without any additional treatment it is possible that you may be allowed home a few hours after the test, but it is essential that someone comes to collect you. Once home, it is important to rest quietly for the remainder of the day. Sedation lasts longer than you think.

For 24 hours after your test you should not:

- drive a car

- operate machinery

- drink alcohol

The effects of the test and sedation should have worn off by the next day, when most patients are able to resume normal activities.