An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure that uses both the endoscopy scope and X-ray pictures to examine the ducts (common bile ducts and pancreatic ducts) that drain the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas. This test is used to treat and diagnose problems of the bile and pancreatic ducts. If an abnormal growth is discovered, a sample of tissue can be obtained through the scope for further testing (biopsy); also if a gallstone is found in the bile duct, it can be removed during the ERCP. In cases when the bile duct is narrowed, the doctor is also able to insert a small wire-mesh or plastic tube (stent) through the endoscope into the duct.
ERCP is generally performed to:
- Check for gallstones
- Check for diseases of the liver, bile ducts
- Check for diseases of the pancreas
- Open a narrowed bile duct
- Retrieve a sample of tissue for a biopsy
- Measure the pressure inside the bile ducts (Manometry)
- Determine the cause of jaundice
The ERCP generally lasts from fifteen minutes to one hour, depending on the patient’s anatomy and any abnormalities the doctor finds. This procedure can be performed in the outpatient setting.