ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography) is a combination of endoscopy and x-rays, done at a hospital location. ERCP allows the gastroenterologist to diagnose, and sometimes repair, conditions in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. These conditions may include gallstones, scarring, leaks, and cancer.
The liver is an organ that makes bile, which helps with digestion, and the gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that stores bile until it is needed for digestion. The bile ducts are tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. The pancreas is a large gland that produces chemicals that help with digestion and hormones such as insulin.
ERCP combines the use of x-rays and an endoscope. Through the endoscope, the doctor can see inside the stomach and duodenum and inject dyes into the bile ducts and pancreas so that they can be seen on x-rays.
Depending upon whether any conditions are found that need to be remedied, an ERCP can take from 30 to 90 minutes. If the exam shows a gallstone or narrowing of the ducts, the gastroenterologist can insert instruments into the endoscope to remove or relieve the obstruction. He can also take tissue samples for biopsy.