Having an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography)
An ERCP examination allows detailed images of the bile ducts and/or pancreas, in addition to being able to remove gallstones from the bile ducts or insert stents through blockages in those ducts.
Preparing for the examination
If you are taking Warfarin or Clopidogrel you will need to contact your own GP as these medications will need to be stopped prior to the procedure. You must not have anything to eat or drink for at least six hours before the test to ensure the stomach is empty. However, you may take sips of water during the six hours to moisten your mouth. You will need to visit your GP practice three days before the procedure to have a set of routine blood tests.
During the procedure
You will be given a sedative injection (please note that this is not a general anaesthetic). You will also be given a painkiller as the procedure can be uncomfortable. You will have a small plastic tube inserted into a vein in the back of your hand or arm. You will be sleepy and relaxed throughout the procedure and aware of what is happening, but afterwards it is unlikely that you will be able to recall much about it. Once you are sleepy, the endoscope will be passed through your mouth, down into your stomach and into your duodenum. A fine tube is then passed down the endoscope and inserted into your bile duct/pancreatic duct. Dye is injected and x-rays are taken. If everything is normal the endoscope is removed and the procedure is complete. The dye passes out of your body harmlessly. If the x-rays show a gallstone, the opening of the bile duct will be enlarged and the stones can then be removed from the duct or left to pass into the intestine. If a narrowing of the bile duct is found, a short plastic tube (stent) will be inserted into the duct so bile can drain. You will not be aware of this stent which can be left in permanently.
After the procedure
Providing you are fit to go home, you will be offered a drink and something to eat, and will be told the results of the procedure and what treatment has been given once you are fully awake. You will need someone to accompany you home after the procedure and stay with you for at least twelve hours afterwards. During the next twenty four hours it is important you:
- Do not use public transport
- Go back to work
- Operate any machinery (including kettles and cookers)
- Drink alcohol
- Look after children
- Sign any legal documents
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