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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

ERCP is a procedure that allows a gastroenterologist to diagnose and treat problems in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts and pancreas. The doctor can examine these organs to detect any abnormalities and perform specific intervention and treatment.

Specialized endoscopic cameras are used to look inside of the bile duct and pancreas duct, take biopsies and help to shatter large stones. Doctors can also use ERCP to place stents and deliver ablation to treat inoperable bile duct cancers.

What Is an ERCP Procedure?

ERCP combines X-ray and the use of an endoscope—a long, flexible, lighted tube. Your healthcare provider guides the scope through your mouth and throat, then down the esophagus, stomach and the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). Your healthcare provider can view the inside of these organs and check for problems. Next, he or she will pass a tube through the scope and inject a dye. This highlights the organs on X-ray.

You may need ERCP to find the cause of unexplained abdominal pain or yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice). It may be used to get more information if you have pancreatitis or cancer of the liver, pancreas or bile ducts.

Other things that may be found with ERCP include:

  • Blockages or stones in the bile ducts
  • Fluid leakage from the bile or pancreatic ducts
  • Blockages or narrowing of the pancreatic ducts
  • Tumors
  • Infection in the bile ducts

Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend an ERCP.