What is ERCP?



Endoscopic Retrograde cholangiopancreatography

is a diagnostic as well as a treatment technique used for recognising problems with the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and the bile ducts. This technique makes use of fluoroscopy as well as endoscopy. Endoscopy would enable the physician to see inside the stomach and recognise any problems in the bile ducts.

What is ERCP Used For?:

This technique is a combination of both therapeutic and diagnostic measures that is mainly used for dealing with bile ducts’ problems like gallstones and inflammatory scars.

Since this technique makes use of endoscopy, a long and light flexible tube is usually inserted into the bile ducts or the pancreas to look into the stomach. An imaging technique (usually X-rays) reveal the existence of a stone or scar.

How is it Done?:

A person would usually have to lie on the left side over a table. Later, the back of the throat is sedated to create a numbing effect.

  • The pipe is then pushed down the throat through the esophagus into the stomach until the bile ducts are reached.
  • Once the bile ducts are reached, the patient is laid flat on the back and then another small tube is put through the scope. Through this small tube, a dye is injected which helps in brightening the X-ray.
  • If there exist any gallstones, the doctor would use a few more instruments which are pushed down the endoscope for removal.

Diagnostic Measures:

In the following cases this technique is used as a diagnostic measure-

  • bile duct tumours
  • suspected bile duct injuries due to trauma
  • presence of gallstones in the bilary duct
  • obstructive jaundice

Therapeutic Measures:

During the diagnosis if any of the above problems are recognised, the following would become necessary-

  • stone removal
  • stent(s) insertion
  • scar dilation


The possible complications of this technique are-

  • pancreas inflammation
  • bleeding
  • infection
  • duodenum perforation
  • tenderness in the neck (in the sedative injected area)


is a necessary and useful technique for those who suffer from problems with gallstones.

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