Centers for Digestive Health

Gastroenterology located in Highland, IN, Merrillville, IN, Gary, IN, DeMotte, IN, Crown Point, IN & Dyer, IN

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), like colonoscopy, is an endoscopic procedure. But, with ERCP, the test examines the bile ducts and pancreas rather than the colon. At the Centers for Digestive Health in Highland, Merrillville, Dyer, Gary, Crown Point, and DeMotte, Indiana, the board-certified gastroenterologists offer ERCP and other tests to evaluate digestive health and plan treatment. Call the nearest office or book an appointment online.


What is ERCP?

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography or ERCP is a procedure in which your doctor uses an endoscope — a thin tube with a camera and light — to look for problems within your bile and pancreatic ducts. 

The bile ducts move bile, which helps digestion and fat absorption, from the liver to the gallbladder. The pancreatic duct ferries digestive fluids out of the pancreas and into the small intestine. 

ERCP can identify and sometimes treat problems that occur in these areas.

When might I need ERCP?

Your Centers for Digestive Health doctor may recommend ERCP in the following situations:

  • You have yellowed skin (jaundice)
  • You have serious abdominal pain
  • You've lost weight without trying
  • Imaging tests show pancreatic or bile duct obstructions or narrowing
  • Blood tests detect liver or pancreas abnormalities

If you have been diagnosed with pancreatitis, your doctor may perform ERCP to find the underlying reason for the inflammation.

How does ERCP work?

You typically have the ERCP procedure while fasting (nothing to eat or drink after 12:00 am the night before the procedure). You receive sedation and may also receive anesthetic in the back of your throat. 

For the ERCP procedure, your doctor moves the thin endoscope tube through your mouth and down to the start of your small intestine. This isn't painful but may bring on a feeling of fullness. 

Your doctor injects contrast dye into your bile duct, and usually into the pancreatic duct as well. Then, your doctor uses X-rays to capture images of the ducts. The dye highlights issues like blockages, widening, or scarring. 

Depending on what problems you have, your doctor may also perform treatment during your ERCP procedure. For example, they may remove stones that block a duct or widen a narrowed duct with a stent.

What happens after ERCP?

You can usually go home within a few hours. Once you're awake and ready to go, a loved one can drive you home. Your Centers for Digestive Health physician gives you specific discharge instructions to follow. 

Usually, you can eat within a few hours. You may not drive until the next day, as the sedative makes you drowsy.

To find out whether ERCP is the right test or treatment for your gallbladder or bile duct issues, call the Centers for Digestive Health, or click the online appointment scheduling tool.