What is an Endoscopic Sphincterotomy?

During an ERCP, sometimes the physician will need to perform a sphincterotomy to either obtain access to the bile duct or remove bile duct and pancreatic duct stones.  During a sphincterotomy, the sphincter muscle that controls the drainage of bile and/or pancreatic juice is cut with a sphincterotome (small wire connected to electrocautery).