Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

What is an ERCP?

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an investigation used to view the bile ducts, pancreas and pancreatic duct. A tube (endoscope) is passed through your mouth and into your stomach, a dye is then injected into the bile or pancreatic duct and X-rays are taken.

How an ERCP is performed?

Your anaesthetist will usually administer a deep sedation, but a general anaesthetic may sometimes be required. The procedure usually lasts 30-60 minutes. An endoscope will pass through your mouth, down your oesophagus and into your stomach and small intestine to reach the region of the bile duct and pancreas. You will be asleep during the procedure. A small number of patients experience discomfort post procedure.

Why do you need an ERCP?

Problems that may require you to undergo an ERCP include abdominal pain, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes) or stones in the ducts. If there are blockages in the bile duct, stones can often be removed or a tube (stent) may be inserted to unblock the duct. For patients who have known or suspected pancreatic disease, an ERCP can often determine the most appropriate surgical intervention.

What do you need to do prior to surgery?

There is no speci c preparation for this procedure; however, you will be fasting for approximately eight hours prior to surgery. Dependent on your past medical history you may be required to temporarily cease some medications eg. Blood thinning agents or require additional pathology tests. This will be discussed with Dr Nikfarjam at your consultation appointment.

What happens after your ERCP?

You will be monitored for 1-2 hours post procedure in the recovery area and if you are required to stay overnight you will be transferred to the ward. It is not uncommon for your throat to be sore or experience some abdominal bloating for a day or two after your ERCP. You can eat and drink after the sedation has worn o¬ but you cannot drive for 24 hours due to the sedation.

Possible Complications

Major complications following an ERCP are rare. If your ERCP requires the removal of stones or placement of a stent, there is a small risk of bleeding or perforation (making a hole in the intestine). Pancreatitis (inflammation/irritation of the pancreas) is probably the most common complication.

When to contact your surgeon?

  • Persistent pain, particularly in the abdomen that is not relieved by pain killers
  • Fever or chills
  • Persistent nausea or vomiting
  • Shortness of breath or pain in the back of your calves
  • Australasian Pancreatic Club
  • Pancare Foundation
  • SSAT
  • APA
  • ASGE
  • GESA
  • AAS
  • RACS