Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an internal exploratory examination of the bile ducts and the pancreatic duct. With an endoscope, the doctor looks whether there are defects. During the examination, X-rays may be made and interventions may be performed. ERCP is a type of endoscopy.
With an ERCP, defects of the bile ducts and the pancreatic duct can be evaluated or treated. For example, gallstones, tumors or narrowings can be detected.
The endoscope is a flexible tube of about one centimeter in diameter. At the end of the tube, there is a small light and a camera. The light ensures that the doctor has good vision. The camera is connected to a monitor, on which the doctor can follow the examination.
The doctor slides the endoscope via the throat and the esophagus through the stomach into the duodenum. Through the hollow endoscope, a thin tube (catheter) is then inserted into the duodenum. This catheter can be pushed forward into the biliary or pancreatic duct, where an X-ray is made using contrast fluid.
During the examination, the doctor can perform minor interventions, such as removing a gallstone in the largest bile duct or inserting a tube (stent or endoprosthesis) if there are narrowings. Also tissue can be removed for examination (biopsy).
An ERCP takes about 30 minutes. When the doctor has to perform an intervention, the examination may take up to 60 minutes.