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Southern Arizona VA Health Care System

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Endoscopic Retrograde

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

ERCP is a procedure that is used to view the common bile duct to help locate and treat blockages in the duct. It may also be used to locate pancreas problems.

Preparing for ERCP

  • Talk to your doctor about any health problems or allergies you have, and medications you take.
  • Ask your doctor about the risks of ERCP. These include pancreatitis, infection, bleeding, and bowel perforation.
  • Be sure to tell your doctor about any medications you take. Your primary care provider, cardiologist or the anticoagulation clinic will tell you the number of days to hold any blood thinners before your procedure.
  • Five days prior to your procedure STOP taking multivitamins and iron pills. You SHOULD CONTINUE taking all of your other medications, including early in the morning on the day of the procedure.
  • If you are a diabetic, do not take your insulin or diabetic medication the morning of your exam.
  • On the morning of the procedure, take all important medications (for heart, high blood pressure or seizure disorders) as prescribed with a small amount of water.
  • Do not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the ERCP.
  • Bring a responsible adult (over 18 years old) to your appointment. We will ask them to wait in the lobby and take you home after the procedure.If you arrive without a responsible adult, even if you complete the prep, your procedure may need to be rescheduled, or you may need to spend the night in the hospital. Please call your Patient Aligned Care Team (PACT) to discuss options in advance if you do not have someone to come with you to the appointment.

The ERCP takes 20–90 minutes. You may be given medication through an IV to help you relax. A thin tube (endoscope) is then placed into your throat. The endoscope lets the doctor see the common bile duct on a video screen. A cut may be made where the common bile duct opens to the duodenum to make it easier to remove stones. As blockages are located and removed, x-rays are taken. Contrast dye is injected through a catheter to make the duct show up better on the x-rays.

After ERCP

Your doctor may discuss the test results right away or a return visit may be scheduled. You may go home the same day or spend the night in the hospital. Follow these tips:

  • You can return to a normal routine the day after the ERCP unless otherwise advised by your doctor.
  • Avoid high-fat foods after the procedure. Ask your doctor how long you should follow this low-fat diet.
  • If a cut was made in the duct, your doctor will tell you when to resume blood thinning medications.
  • Call your doctor right away or report to the Emergency Department if you have a fever or abdominal pain. These may be signs of an infection.