An ERCP is where the doctor examines the tubes (ducts) that drain your liver, pancreas and gallbladder. The doctor will pass the endoscope, which is a flexible tube with a camera attached which allows the doctor to see the food pipe, stomach and the small bowel.

A fine plastic tube will be passed inside the endoscope into the liver and/or pancreas. Contrast material (dye) will be injected and x-rays taken.

The doctor may then remove stones, relieve duct blockage or take samples (biopsy).

The procedure is performed under sedation or anaesthetic administered by a specialist Anaesthetist

The ERCP is a safe procedure. Complications are rare and include:

  • Pancreatitis: Less than 3-5 in 100 people will experience pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is inflammation of the pancreas which causes it to become swollen and painful. Most pancreatitis will settle within 2-3 days and may require a short stay in the hospital. Rarely, it may be more severe requiring a longer hospital stay.
  • Bleeding occurs in less than 1 in 100 people. This usually will settle spontaneously or can be stopped at the time of the procedure. Rarely people require further intervention, such as a specialised x-ray procedure or surgery.
  • Infection: Less than 1 in 200 people can develop an infection (especially if a sample is taken from a cyst). The risk is reduced substantially with the administration of antibiotics.
  • Perforation: Less than 1 in 1000 people will accidentally get a hole (perforation) to the bowel. If this was to occur, this may be repaired with small clips during the procedure, or rarely require an operation to repair it.

ERCP information and how to prepare for one