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An Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography or ERCP is a procedure that can reveal blockage or narrowing in the bile ducts.

An endoscope (small, flexible tube) is inserted into the mouth, and then threaded through the esophagus and stomach to the top of the small intestine. This is where ERCPthe bile ducts meet the intestine. Dye is inserted through the scope to make the bile ducts show up on an x-ray.

Why is an ERCP Procedure performed?

The procedure is used mostly to treat any problems of the pancreas or bile ducts that can cause abdominal pain (usually in the right upper or middle stomach area) and yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice).

ERCP may be used to:

  • Open the entry of the ducts into the bowel (sphincterotomy)
  • Stretch out narrow segments (bile duct strictures)
  • Remove or crush gallstones
  • Take tissue samples to diagnose a:
  • Tumor of the pancreas, bile ducts, or gallbladder
  • Conditions called biliary cirrhosis or sclerosing cholangitis
  • Drain blocked areas

Note: Imaging tests generally will be done to diagnose the cause of symptoms before an ERCP is done. These include ultrasound tests, CT scan, or MRI scan.

Your doctor may take samples of tissue or fluid using instruments inserted into the scope. The samples are then sent to the lab to be studied and tested.

Risks from an ERCP may include:

Reactions to the anesthesia, dye, or drug used during this procedure may include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Breathing problems
  • Dry mouth
  • Feeling of burning or flushing
  • Hives
  • Low blood pressure or slow heart rate
  • Nausea
  • Throat spasm
  • Problems emptying your bladder (urine retention)

Risks from the procedure include:

  • Bleeding
  • Hole (perforation) of the bowel
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), which can be very serious


Helpful Links

National Institutes of Health

ERCP (video)

Suburban Gastroenterology