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.