What is an ERCP?

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ERCP stands for Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography.

This is a procedure that uses a combination of upper gastrointestinal endoscopy and xray imaging to aid in the diagnosis of diseases of the pancreas, gallbladder, liver, and biliary system (a network of small ducts that transfer bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine), but is mainly used to treat these diseases, as modern technology has provided several safer, less invasive tests such as Computed Tomography (CT), Magnetic Retrograde CholangioPancreatography (MRCP) scans and Endoscopic Ultrasound (EUS) for diagnosis.


Reasons for ERCP:

  • Gallstones - a condition where a small "stone", more formally known as a calculus, is created from bile acid and cholesterol derivatives
  • Acute or chronic pancreatitis - an inflammation or swelling of the pancreas that causes symptoms such as upper abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting
  • Intrahepatic or extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma - cancer of the bile ducts
  • Hepatocellular carcinoma - the most common type of primary liver cancer
  • Pancreatic adenocarcinoma - the most common type of pancreatic cancer
  • Other types of tumors, cancers, or blockages of the digestive system - numerous other conditions can require teatment with ERCP


Common Treatments with ERCP:

  • Sphincterotomy - a procedure used to open the ducts into the bowel to aid drainage or remove stones in the ducts
  • Stenting - a small tube made of plastic or metal inserted into a blocked or narrowed duct to hold it open
  • Removal of gallstones - ERCP can remove gallstones from the bile ducts but not from the gallbladder
  • Take tissue samples - ERCP can be used to take tissue samples to diagnose tumors found within the pancreas, gallbladder, or bile ducts


Risks and Complications:

ERCP is a low-risk procedure, but as with any procedure there is always a risk of complications. The most common complication of ERCP is pancreatitis, and is more likely to occur in patients with a healthy pancreas. Pancreatitis is characterized by swelling and imflammation of the pancreas. Usually, this will last for a few days, during which time you will need to remain in the hospital for pain medication and IV fluids, but can (rarely) become more serious. Other complications can include allergic reaction to the anesthesia or dye used during the procedure, bleeding, perforation of the bowel, and infection. Additionally, it is important to communicate with your doctor about any other medications, prescribed or otherwise, that you may be taking, in order to avoid adverse reactions between medications, especially blood thinning medications, such as aspirin or warfarin.

Seek emergency care if you have any of the following symptoms after the procedure:

  • Severe pain in the chest or abdomen
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting or vomiting blood
  • Bleeding or bloody (black) stool
  • Bloating
  • Fever higher than 100°F (37.8°C)
  • Difficulty breathing, or swallowing


M.D. Endoscopy

As the industry leader of pre-owned, refurbished and used endoscopy equipment, M.D. Endoscopy, Inc. offers one of the largest inventories of endoscopes in the world. We offer products from all major manufacturers including but not limited to Olympus, Pentax and Fujinon with the only and most comprehensive 24-month warranty in the industry.

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