What is an ERCP?
ERCP is a procedure performed under x-ray control using an endoscope, which allows the bile, pancreas and liver ducts to be examined. These ducts are outlined with x-ray dye. If gallstones or a narrowing of the bile duct are found, they can sometimes be treated during ERCP.
An ERCP is one way of looking at your biliary tract and pancreas. However there are alternative tests which you may have already had or which have been discussed with you. Most of these are scans. Unfortunately scans cannot treat problems when found. ERCP also allows biopsies of any abnormal areas to be taken for analysis, stones to be removed or a stent placed. For these reasons, ERCP is often thought to be a more appropriate test.
If you wish to discuss this further, please contact you GP or the doctor who referred you for this test.
What are the risks of having an ERCP?
- A sore throat after the examination is common and should resolve after a few hours.
- There is a small risk of damage to crowned teeth or dental bridgework
- A reaction to the drugs used during the test may require you to stay in hospital.
- ERCP can cause acute pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) in 1 in 50 patients. Antibiotics may be given to help prevent this but it may result in a prolonged stay in hospital and occasionally a surgical operation is necessary to treat it.
- ERCP may result in infection within the bile duct. This is usually treatable with antibiotics that may be given prior to the procedure, but occasionally it may be serious.
- ERCP may result in bleeding particularly if the bile duct needs to be cut. The bleeding can usually be stopped by an injection through the endoscope, but if it is serious a surgical operation may become necessary. If required, a blood sample will be taken before your test to check your clotting levels.
ERCP may cause perforation of the intestine. If this occurs a surgical operation may be necessary.
These complications rarely occur but it is important for every patient to understand that ERCP is usually not a simple diagnostic procedure but is performed as an alternative to open surgery.