ERCP is a diagnostic and/or therapeutic procedure that examines the bile duct, pancreatic duct, and gallbladder using a lighted flexible tube and x-ray. A catheter (small plastic tube) is inserted into the opening of the ducts located in the duodenum. A dye is injected slowly and with the aid of x-ray, the biliary and pancreatic ducts can be visualized for any abnormalities. 

Patients who have pain or abnormal laboratory tests may be advised to have an ERCP to diagnose possible biliary or pancreatic disease. ERCP can be useful to determine whether or not surgery is needed. Patients who are jaundice (yellow discoloration of skin ad eyes) may be advised to have an ERCP to diagnose the cause. Some patients may have stones in their bile duct, strictures (narrowing) of the ducts, or tumors. 

Therapeutic techniques can be used during ERCP to treat some problems. Stones can be removed from the bile ducts using small balloons or through lithotripsy (crushing of stones). Strictures can be kept patent (open) by placing stents (metal or plastic drainage tubes) in the ducts. 

ERCP Procedure Preparation

  • No food or liquids (this includes water) minimally 6 hours prior to the procedure.
  • You may also have diet and/or medication restrictions the week prior to the exam. Please refer to your physician for detailed instructions.
  • Plan to take the day off from work for the exam.
  • Plan to have someone you know drive you home. Since the procedure is usually performed with intravenous sedation, you will be instructed to not drive a car or return to work until the next day.
  • Contact the physician and inform him or her of any special needs, medical conditions, latex allergy or current medications you are taking.
  • The GI Lab staff will attempt to contact you the evening before your procedure to answer any questions you may have.
  • In some cases patients may be admitted to the hospital overnight for observation after certain therapeutic interventions are performed during an ERCP.

Pre-ERCP Procedure Expectations

  • You may be expected to arrive 30 minutes prior to your scheduled exam time.
  • You may have an intravenous line placed, since the procedure is usually performed with intravenous sedation.
  • You will be asked if there is a responsible person to drive you home after the exam.
  • In most cases, the procedure may take up to an hour.
  • You will be positioned on your stomach with your head turned to the right side for the procedure.

Post-ERCP Procedure Expectations

  • After the procedure is completed you will recover for about 30 to 45 minutes.
  • You may experience a sore throat after the procedure.
  • Once you have met the discharge criteria, the physician will discuss with you the preliminary findings.
  • After the recovery period patients are able to go home and usually eat right away.
  • Diet and/or medication restrictions may be given to certain patients depending on the findings of the exam.
  • If patient is not admitted for observation, discharge instructions will be provided to to take home.

The nature of our practice is to provide our patients the utmost in care and services. We ask ahead of time to please excuse any delay in care. Our commitment is to provide you with the same careful attention and care as soon as possible. You can expect excellent care and service in the GI Labs of NorthShore University HealthSystem.

This procedure is available at all of our GI lab locations
To schedule an appointment call the Patient Access Center at 1.888.364.6400. 

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