Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography (ERCP)
The vast majority of ERCP tests are performed for therapy of bile duct disorders. The tests are most commonly done with sedation, in the x-ray department.
Common Reasons for the Test:
- To relieve obstruction from gallstones in common bile duct (CBD) causing pain, infection (cholangitis) and/ or jaundice
- To relieve obstruction from narrowing (stricture) in CBD causing pain, infection (cholangitis) and/ or jaundice. A stricture may be due to a growth (tumour) in the bile duct or pancreas, or surrounding enlarged lymph nodes
- To remedy a bile leak complication following a cholecystectomy (surgery to remove gallbladder)
The alternatives to ERCP for reasons 1 & 2 above include a procedure that involves percutaneous (through the skin) needle puncture into the liver to access the bile duct (also called PTBD) or bypass surgery. These may not be feasible when patients are acutely unwell, unstable, unfit or have advanced tumour stage.
Preparing for the Test
On the Day of Test
In the Endoscopy/ X-Ray Room
Drugs Commonly Used for the Test
Topical spray - Local anaesthetic throat spray
Injection - Sedatives (benzodiazepine, midazolam)
- Pain killer (morphine, commonly pethidine or fentanyl)
- Antibiotics (Tazocin, Co-amoxiclav, or oral Ciprofloxacin)
Patient Position During the Test
Prone or semi-prone (see picture 1).
Left lateral (sometimes).
Can I Watch the Test?
This is not feasible as the head position faces away from the video and x-ray (fluoroscopy) monitors and the moderate deep sedation administered during ERCP.
The opening of the bile duct may be enlarged to allow removal of gallstones or passage of a stent. This may involve an electrically heated wire (diathermy) or a balloon device passed through the endoscope.
A stent is an internal drainage tube made of plastic or flexible metal mesh. A temporary plastic pancreatic stent may be placed to help bile duct access and reduce the risk of pancreatitis. Plastic biliary stent(s) are inserted to ensure bile drainage, when large gallstones could not be completely removed, until a repeat attempt. Both plastic and metal biliary stents are used to treat bile duct stricture. These stents do not cause any discomfort.
You may experience some discomfort from dilation with a balloon device, and sometimes during the removal of gallstones. Supplementary injection of sedative or painkiller (morphine) drugs will be given as necessary during the test for adequate control of pain or discomfort.
There is a 1-2% risk of inflammation of pancreas (pancreatitis), which may be higher with some patient and procedure related risk factors. Due to the therapeutic nature of most ERCP tests, they are associated with complications of perforation (as with any therapeutic endoscopy test) and bleeding (about 2%). In severe cases of perforation or bleeding, surgery may become necessary.
If there is any suspicion of the above complications during or straight after the test (in recovery), patients will be admitted for close monitoring and/ or treatment.
Specialist Endoscopies and more . . .