Procedures Center

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

What Is It?

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is performed to diagnose diseases or other conditions of the pancreas, bile ducts, liver and gallbladder. A flexible tube is inserted into the mouth to examine the esophagus, stomach and duodenum. Contrast dye is injected which outlines the bile ducts and pancreas in order to take detailed x-rays of these areas.

How Do I Prepare?

  • Do not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before.
  • Discuss with your doctor what medications you should take.
  • If you are taking medication to thin your blood (e.g., Coumadin, Warfarin, Plavix, or aspirin), you should check with your doctor about stopping these medications before this test.
  • Medications that your doctor has instructed you to take can be taken with a small amount of water.
  • If you have had a reaction to contrast dye in the past, be sure to tell your physician.
  • If you wear dentures, they must be removed for the procedure.
  • Be sure to arrange transportation. Someone must stay with you at the hospital until discharge and drive you home. Transportation will be verified before the procedure. You may use a taxi cab for your transportation only if you have a person accompanying you other than the taxi cab driver. Your procedure may be cancelled if these arrangements are not made.

What Happens During the Procedure?

  • Consent is signed.
  • Your stomach must be completely empty for the best and safest exam.
  • An intravenous needle (IV) is inserted.
  • The procedure is done in the x-ray department.
  • You will be lying on your abdomen with your head turned to the right.
  • Oxygen will be used throughout the procedure.
  • Your blood pressure and pulse will be continuously monitored during the procedure.
  • You will be given medication to make you sleepy and relaxed and to minimize discomfort.
  • Depending on your doctor's preference, your throat may be sprayed with a local anesthetic to numb your gag reflex.
  • A mouthpiece will be inserted and you will bite down on it with your teeth. The scope is then inserted and the examination is started.
  • The procedure takes one hour or more.
  • Recovery time is about 2 hours.
  • Plan to be at the hospital for a minimum of 3 hours.