What is ERCP?
The ERCP procedure or Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography is a procedure used to diagnose and treat issues in the liver, bile ducts, gallbladder, and pancreas. For this procedure, the use of an endoscope is combined with an X-ray. An endoscope is a long-flexible tube with a light attached to the top of it.
Importantly, the scope is put inside through the mouth and then through the throat and down the esophagus, stomach, and the initial part of the small intestines, also known as the duodenum. With the help of an ECRP, the doctor is enabled to have a look at the inside of these organs and diagnose any possible issues. Next, the doctor passes a tube through the scope and injects a dye. The dye highlights all of the organs on X-ray, which provided an even cleared view of the insides of the digestive tract.
Who Needs ERCP?
A person needs ERCP to look for the reason for unexplained abdominal pain or paling of the skin and eyes. It is also used to get additional information if an individual has pancreatitis or cancer of the pancreas, bile ducts, or liver.
Some other things that can be diagnosed with the help of ERCP medical procedures are:
- Stones or blockage in the bile ducts
- Fluid leakage from the pancreatic or bile ducts
- Narrowing or blockages of the pancreatic ducts
- Infection in the pancreas or bile ducts
How is ERCP Performed?
ERCP can only be performed by doctors who have gotten specialized training in ERCP. It is mainly performed at an outpatient center or a hospital. Firstly, the doctor will place an intravenous ((IV) needle in your arm to give a sedative. A sedative will help you stay comfortable and relaxed during the ERCP procedure. Next, you will be given a liquid anesthetic to gargle or it will be sprayed on the back of your throat. This will numb the throat and prevent gagging during ERCP.
Importantly, throughout the procedure, the healthcare professionals will continually monitor the vital signs and keep you calm and comfortable. In some cases, the patients are also given general anesthesia. The doctor will ask you to lie on an examination table.
Next, the endoscope will be fed down the esophagus, stomach, and finally into the duodenum. The endoscope has a small camera mounted on top of it which sends video images to a monitor. Moreover, the endoscope also pumps air into the stomach and duodenum to help the doctors have a clear view during ERCP.
During the ERCP procedure, the doctor will:
Locate the opening where the pancreatic and bile ducts get emptied into the duodenum.
Slide a flexible, thin tube named a catheter through the endoscope and then into the ducts.
Inject a special dye, called contrast medium, into the bile and pancreatic ducts through the catheter to help make ducts cleared on x-rays.
Use a kind of X-ray imaging, which is known as fluoroscopy, to assess the ducts and look for blockages and narrowed areas.