Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a test that uses a combination of X-rays and an endoscope. An endoscope is a lighted flexible tube with an attached camera.
Gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in gastrointestinal disorders) use ERCP to examine and treat problems that affect the liver, pancreas, gallbladder and bile ducts. Bile ducts carry bile from your liver to the gallbladder and on to the pancreas and intestines. Bile is a fluid that breaks down fat in foods.
Doctors use ERCP to diagnose and treat problems that affect the:
Follow your doctor’s instructions on steps to take before the procedure. Generally, you should:
ERCP is usually an outpatient procedure, which means you go home the same day. The procedure can take one to two hours. You’ll receive IV anesthesia (medicine to calm you). You’ll be awake for the procedure, but you probably won’t remember any of it. Someone will need to drive you home afterward.
During a diagnostic ERCP, your doctor:
For treatment, your doctor may insert tiny instruments through the endoscope to:
The endoscopic procedure may irritate your throat. You might need to eat soft foods for a day or two until the soreness subsides.
After ERCP, you may experience some bloating (a swollen feeling from the pumped-in air) and nausea (an anesthesia side effect). You should be able to return to work and normal activities the next day, with your doctor’s approval.
Some people have an allergic reaction to the IV dye used during the X-ray part of the procedure. If this happens, your doctor will quickly administer medication to stop the reaction. Other rare but potential complications include:
Your doctor may be able to share diagnostic findings with you immediately. It can take up to two weeks to get biopsy results.
Call your healthcare provider if you experience:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
ERCP is a relatively low-risk procedure. It helps your healthcare provider determine the cause of certain bile duct and gastrointestinal problems. ERCP can also help treat these problems. Your provider may share findings and treatment options with you on the day of the procedure or after receiving biopsy results.
© Copyright 1995-2020 The Cleveland Clinic Foundation. All rights reserved.
This information is provided by the Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider for advice about a specific medical condition. This document was last reviewed on: 09/03/2020