Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a medical procedure used to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the bile ducts, liver, and pancreas. It combines endoscopy and fluoroscopy techniques to examine and treat problems in these organs.

During an ERCP procedure, a long, flexible tube called an endoscope is passed through the mouth, down the esophagus, and into the stomach and duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). The endoscope has a light and a camera on its tip, allowing the doctor to visualize the area. The endoscope also has a channel through which various instruments can be passed.

Once the endoscope is in place, a contrast dye is injected into the bile and pancreatic ducts, which helps to highlight these structures on X-ray images. X-ray fluoroscopy is used to obtain real-time images as the contrast dye moves through the ducts. This allows the doctor to identify any abnormalities such as gallstones, strictures, tumors, or other blockages.

If any abnormalities are found during the procedure, the doctor can perform therapeutic interventions. These may include removing gallstones, dilating strictures or narrowed areas, placing stents to open up blocked ducts, or taking tissue samples (biopsies) for further examination.

ERCP is typically performed under sedation or general anesthesia to ensure patient comfort. The procedure usually takes about 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the complexity of the case.

ERCP can be useful in diagnosing and treating conditions such as gallstones, bile duct strictures or obstructions, pancreatic duct obstructions, pancreatitis, bile duct or pancreatic tumors, and certain liver conditions. However, it is an invasive procedure and carries some risks, such as bleeding, infection, pancreatitis, or perforation of the bowel. Therefore, it is important for the procedure to be performed by experienced gastroenterologists or interventional radiologists in a hospital or specialized medical center.