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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography

What you should know

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure to examine the ducts of your pancreas or gallbladder. ERCP may also be used to open blocked ducts, or to diagnose problems with your pancreas or gallbladder. An endoscope (thin, flexible tube with a light) will be used for the procedure.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.


ERCP may increase your risk for an abdominal infection or pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas). The scope or tools may injure your esophagus, stomach, or intestines. You may also have problems with your lungs or trouble breathing. These problems may become life-threatening.

Getting Ready

The week before your procedure:

  • Write down the correct date, time, and location of your procedure.
  • Arrange a ride home. Ask a family member or friend to drive you home after your surgery or procedure. Do not drive yourself home.
  • Ask your caregiver if you need to stop using aspirin or any other prescribed or over-the-counter medicine before your procedure or surgery.
  • Bring your medicine bottles or a list of your medicines when you see your caregiver. Tell your caregiver if you are allergic to any medicine. Tell your caregiver if you use any herbs, food supplements, or over-the-counter medicine.
  • You may need to take medicine to treat or prevent a bacterial infection before your procedure.
  • You may be given contrast dye to help your healthcare provider see your pancreas and gallbladder better. Tell him if you have ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.
  • You may need blood tests before your procedure. Talk to your healthcare provider about these or other tests you may need. Write down the date, time, and location for each test.

The night before your procedure:

  • You may be given medicine to help you sleep.
  • Ask caregivers about directions for eating and drinking.

The day of your procedure:

  • Ask your caregiver before taking any medicine on the day of your procedure. These medicines include insulin, diabetic pills, high blood pressure pills, or heart pills. Bring a list of all the medicines you take, or your pill bottles, with you to the hospital.
  • You or a close family member will be asked to sign a legal document called a consent form. It gives caregivers permission to do the procedure or surgery. It also explains the problems that may happen, and your choices. Make sure all your questions are answered before you sign this form.
  • Caregivers may insert an intravenous tube (IV) into your vein. A vein in the arm is usually chosen. Through the IV tube, you may be given liquids and medicine.
  • An anesthesiologist will talk to you before your surgery. You may need medicine to keep you asleep or numb an area of your body during surgery. Tell caregivers if you or anyone in your family has had a problem with anesthesia in the past.


What will happen:

  • You will be given medicine to help you relax, make you drowsy, and prevent coughing or gagging. Your healthcare provider will insert the endoscope through your mouth and down into your stomach and upper intestine. He will watch the monitor as he moves the scope.
  • He will then insert a catheter through the scope and into an opening that leads to your pancreas and gallbladder. He will inject contrast dye and take x-rays to see the ducts better. He may insert a tool to remove a blockage or to place a stent to open a plugged duct. He may also take a sample of tissue and send it to a lab to be tested.

After your procedure:

You will be taken to a room to rest until you are fully awake. You will be monitored closely for any problems. Do not get out of bed until your healthcare provider says it is okay. You will then be able to go home or be taken to your hospital room. Your throat may be sore for several days after your ERCP.

Contact a caregiver if

  • You cannot make it to your procedure on time.
  • You have a fever.
  • Your symptoms get worse.
  • You have questions or concerns about your procedure.

Learn more about Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (Precare)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.