What is an ERCP?

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), is a technique performed with a special endoscope that is passed via the mouth, through the stomach to the opening of the bile ducts in the small intestine. The procedure is performed with sedation and most people do not remember it.

ERCP is usually performed for the removal of stones from the bile duct or to provide therapy for a narrowing or compression (stricture) of the ducts. Sometimes this therapy includes the insertion of a plastic or metal stent (drainage tube) or dilation of the narrowing with a special balloon. A small cut in the muscular opening of the duct (a sphincterotomy) may be performed in order to aid the removal of stones or the insertion of a stent.

What preparation is required?

You will be given an information sheet on how to prepare. It is important to have an empty stomach, and some medications will need to be stopped.

What do I need to bring?

You will need to bring your health fund card and Medicare card. Please wear loose fitting clothing. You will need to change into a patient gown for the procedure. Any jewellery and valuables should be left at home.

What happens afterwards?

You may be drowsy for several hours following the ERCP due to the sedation administered. A friend or family member needs to drive you home and stay with you till the next day. Your procedure may be cancelled if this has not been organised. You must not drive until the following day, and not operate heavy machinery or drive (with a commercial licence) for 24 hours afterwards. You can continue taking your regular prescription medications unless you have been told otherwise.

Is ERCP safe?

ERCP is only performed with a good reason as there are some risks associated with the procedure. It is performed by a specially trained doctor. You may feel minor throat discomfort or temporary bloating afterwards. Occasionally there may be nausea or light-headedness following the anaesthetic.

Complications with ERCP are rare but do include the risk of :

Aspiration (stomach contents entering airway): uncommon < 1%

Bleeding: uncommon < 1:500

Pancreatitis: usually around 5%

Infection – uncommon < 1-2%

Teeth Damage – uncommon < 1:500

Perforation (a hole in the gut wall) which may require surgery – very rare

You should contact your doctor immediately if you experience any severe abdominal pain, vomiting blood, difficulty breathing, fevers/chills, or any other symptoms you are concerned about. Alternatively, present to the closest emergency department

If you have any questions or concerns, please contact GastroNorth on 9468 9700