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Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a specialized procedure used to diagnose and treat conditions in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreas. These conditions including gallstones, strictures, leaks (from trauma and surgery), and cancer. ERCP combines the use of x-rays and an endoscope, which is a long, thin, flexible tube with a light and a camera on its tip. 

  • When abnormal growths are found, doctors can insert an instrument through the endoscope to obtain a tissue sample for testing biopsy.

  • If a gallstone is present in the common bile duct, doctors can sometimes remove the stone with instruments inserted through the endoscope.

  • If a bile duct has become too narrow, doctors can enlarge it by making a small cut, and then inserting a small wire mesh or plastic tube through the endoscope and into the duct.

During the ERCP Procedure
An endoscope will be inserted through your mouth and gently moved down the throat into the esophagus, stomach and first part of the small intestine (duodenum). This continues until the endoscope reaches where the ducts of the pancreas pancreatic ducts and gallbladder bile ducts drain bile into the small intestine (the duodenum).

The doctor will now inject a contrast material or dye into the common opening to the ducts from the liver and pancreas also called the major duodenal papilla via a narrow plastic tube catheter located inside the endoscope. After the contrast material or die is injected, the doctor will take some x-rays. 

After the ERCP Procedure
During an outpatient procedure, patients are allowed to go home after recovering from the effects of the sedating medication. You may feel temporary bloating due to air that entered your body during the procedure, this is normal and will pass over time.