Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

ERCP is a specialized technique used to study the ducts of the gallbladder, pancreas, and liver. ERCP combines the use of X-rays and an endoscope, a long, flexible, lighted tube, through which a physician can view the inside of the stomach, duodenum, and ducts in the biliary tree and pancreas. ERCP may be used to discover the underlying cause of jaundice, upper abdominal pain, or unexplained weight loss.

ERCP is used when it is suspected a person's bile or pancreatic ducts may be narrowed or blocked due to:

  • tumors
  • gallstones that form in the gallbladder and become stuck in the ducts
  • inflammation due to trauma or illness, such as Pancreatitis - inflammation of the pancreas
  • infection
  • valves in the ducts, called sphincters, that won't open properly
  • scarring of the ducts, called Sclerosis
  • Pseudocysts-accumulations of fluid and tissue debris

How to prepare for ERCP
The upper GI tract must be empty. Generally, no eating or drinking is allowed 8 hours before ERCP. Smoking and chewing gum are also prohibited during this time.

Patients should tell their healthcare provider about all health conditions they have, especially heart and lung problems, diabetes, and allergies. Patients should also tell their healthcare provider about all medications they take. Patients may be asked to temporarily stop taking medications that affect blood clotting or interact with sedatives, which are usually given during ERCP to help patients relax and stay comfortable.

Medications and vitamins that may be restricted before and after ERCP include:

  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil), and naproxen (Aleve)
  • blood thinners
  • high blood pressure medication
  • diabetes medications
  • antidepressants
  • dietary supplements

Driving is not permitted for 12 to 24 hours after ERCP to allow the sedatives time to completely wear off.
Before the appointment, patients should make plans for a ride home.

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