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Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

What is an ERCP?

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure used to test and treat abnormalities in the pancreas, bile ducts and gallbladder. This procedure consists of endoscopy and an x-ray.

How is an ERCP done?

This procedure is done on an empty stomach however you will be instructed on exactly how to prepare for an ERCP beforehand. After sedation, the ERCP is done by using a thin, flexible tube with an attached camera which is guided down through the oesophagus, stomach and the intestines. The endoscope is then guided towards the opening of the duct and is injected with a contrast agent. This contrast agent allows your surgeon to see the ducts and identify blockages in the ducts using x-rays.

You will be given your diagnosis straight after the procedure. If a biopsy is done, it may take a few days to receive results. In some cases Dr. Noorbhai may find the cause and choose to do laparoscopic surgery such as stent placement, a sphincterectomy or gallstone removal, to treat the condition.

Why would an ERCP be done?

An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is recommended if you have problems with your gallbladder or liver and your body is unable to absorb nutrients properly. This is usually caused when the ducts begin to narrow. These conditions may cause jaundice which is the yellowing of the skin but is also vital for digestion and therefore require treatment.

How long will I be in hospital?

Most ERCP’s are done quickly however you will be monitored for 1-2 hours afterwards, and you will be advised to have someone drive you home and look after you afterwards while the sedative wears off.

What will happen after the procedure?

Following an ERCP may experience the following:

  • A sore throat.
  • Drowsiness from the sedation

All these symptoms are normal and are nothing to be concerned about.

What are the potential risks and complications of an ERCP?

The risk of complications is very low; however, the following complications can occur:

  • Puncturing of the bile duct or bowel wall.
  • Infection of the bowel.
  • Inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Bleeding.

If you have severe abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, blood in the stool, fever or chest pain following your endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) you may require emergency care.

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