Thursday, June 3, 2010

E.R.C.P. - Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography

A Guide to the Test

ERCP stands for Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography. As hard as it is to say, the actual examination is fairly simple.

A dye is injected into the bile and pancreatic ducts using a flexible video endoscope. X-rays are then taken to outline the bile ducts and the pancreas.

The liver produces bile, which flows through the ducts and passes or fills the gallbladder and then enters the intestine (duodenum) just beyond the stomach. The pancreas (which is 6-8 inches long) sits behind the stomach. This organ secretes digestive enzymes that flow into the intestine through the same opening as the bile. Both bile and enzymes are needed to digest food.


The video endoscope is a remarkable piece of equipment that can be directed and moved around the many bends in the upper gastrointestinal tract. A thin, glass fibreoptic bundle collects light at one tip of the scope and, regardless of how it is angled, transmits the image to the other viewing end. An open channel in the scope allows other instruments to be passed through it to perform biopsies, remove polyps or inject solution.


Due to factors related to diet, environment and heredity, the bile ducts, gallbladder and pancreas are the cause of numerous disorders. These can develop into a variety of diseases and/or symptoms.

ERCP helps in diagnosing and often treating these conditions:

• Gallstones, which are trapped in the main bile ducts
• Blockage of the bile duct
• Jaundice, which turns the skin yellow and the urine dark (due to an obstruction)
• Undiagnosed upper abdominal pain
• Cancer of the bile ducts or pancreas
• Pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)

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