What is Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography?

ERCP is a highly specialized procedure that should be performed by experienced, skilled physicians.  ERCP combines the use of endoscopy and fluoroscopy to visualize the bile ducts and pancreatic duct.

 

Endoscopy - physician inserts a thin, flexible tube with a light and camera at the end to visualize structures within the digestive tract
Fluoroscopy - X-rays are performed while contrast (a radiopaque liquid) is injected into the bile ducts and/or pancreatic duct to visualize the anatomy.          
 
ERCP is an advanced endoscopic technique that was initially developed in the early 1970s for the diagnosis and treatment of disorders within the bile ducts and pancreas.  It offers a less invasive, endoscopic approach than traditional surgical procedures for the biliary and pancreatic ducts.  Using a specialized endoscope and fluoroscopy (X-rays), the physician passes the endoscope through the mouth to gain access to the bile duct and/or pancreatic duct from the first portion of the small intestine (duodenum).  During ERCP, you are deeply sedated with either Propofol-based anesthesia or general anesthesia (similar to surgical procedures) by a skilled anesthesiologist or certified registered nurse anesthetist.  In general, ERCP takes approximately 30-90 minutes to perform.  Following the procedure, you will be monitored in the recovery area, and the physician will then determine whether you can be discharged home, accompanied by a responsible adult, or admitted to the hospital for further observation.