ERCP sounds complex, but it’s actually a relatively simple test that uses a flexible, lighted scope (endoscope) along with X-ray pictures to examine the tubes that drain the liver, gallbladder and pancreas. ERCP can also be used to treat certain problems found during testing. If we find an abnormal growth, we can obtain a sample of the tissue, or biopsy, for further examination. If we find a gallstone in the common bile duct, we can remove the stone using the endoscope. We can even open a narrowed bile duct by inserting a small plastic or wire mesh tube, called a stent, into the duct.

ERCP has many uses in gastroenterology. Our physicians use it to examine the stomach and duodenum to find possible causes of persistent abdominal pain or jaundice. We use it to find gallstones or diseases of the liver, bile ducts and pancreas. We also use it to remove gallstones from the common bile duct when they cause obstruction, inflammation or infections such as cholangitis or pancreatitis.

Like many endoscopic procedures, ERCP is both diagnostic and therapeutic. We use ERCP primarily to diagnose and treat conditions of the bile ducts and main pancreatic duct, including gallstones, scars, leaks from trauma and cancer.

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