Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

During ERCP, doctors use an endoscope and X-rays to view injectable dye as it travels through pancreatic and bile ducts. ERCP helps providers diagnose and treat gallstones, inflamed gallbladders, bile duct blockages, pancreatitis, pancreatic cancer and other conditions.

What is an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)?

Gastroenterologists (doctors who specialize in gastrointestinal disorders) use ERCP to examine and treat problems that affect the liverpancreasgallbladder and bile ducts. Bile ducts carry bile from your liver to the gallbladder and on to the small intestine. Bile is a fluid that breaks down fat in foods.

Why do healthcare providers perform ERCP?

Doctors use ERCP to diagnose and treat problems that affect the:

Bile ducts, including cancer, stones and strictures.

Gallbladder, including gallstones and cholecystitis (inflamed gallbladder).

Pancreas, including pancreatitis (inflamed, swollen pancreas), pancreatic cancer and pancreatic cysts and pseudocysts


How should I prepare for ERCP?

Follow your doctor’s instructions on steps to take before the procedure. Generally, you should:


Not eat, drink or smoke for at least six hours before the procedure.


Alert your doctor to any allergies, especially prior allergic reactions to intravenous (IV) contrast dyes. If you’ve had a previous reaction, you may need to take allergy medications before the procedure.


Give your doctor’s office an updated list of medications and supplements.


Talk to your doctor about whether to stop taking blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin and warfarin.


Tell your doctor if you might be pregnant. Certain anaesthesia can harm a developing foetus.

How is ERCP performed?

ERCP is usually an outpatient procedure, which means you go home the same day. The procedure can take one to two hours. You’ll receive IV anaesthesia (medicine to calm you). You’ll be awake for the procedure, but you probably won’t remember any of it. Someone will need to drive you home afterward.

During a diagnostic ERCP, your doctor:

For treatment, your doctor may insert tiny instruments through the endoscope to:

What should I expect after ERCP?

The endoscopic procedure may irritate your throat. You might need to eat soft foods for a day or two until the soreness subsides.


After ERCP, you may experience some bloating (a swollen feeling from the pumped-in air) and nausea (an anaesthesia side effect). You should be able to return to work and normal activities the next day, with your doctor’s approval.

What are the potential risks or complications of getting ERCP?

Some people have an allergic reaction to the IV dye used during the X-ray part of the procedure. If this happens, your doctor will quickly administer medication to stop the reaction. Other rare but potential complications include:

When should I call the doctor?

Call your healthcare provider if you experience: