endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography

Also found in: Dictionary, Acronyms, Wikipedia.
Related to endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography: Magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography, Endoscopic ultrasound

Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography



Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a technique in which a hollow tube called an endoscope is passed through the mouth and stomach to the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine). This procedure was developed to examine abnormalities of the bile ducts, pancreas, and gallbladder. It was developed during the late 1960s and is used today to diagnose and treat blockages of the bile and pancreatic ducts.
The term has three parts to its definition:
  • endoscopic refers to the use of an endoscope
  • retrograde refers to the injection of dye up into the bile ducts in a direction opposing, or against, the normal flow of bile down the ducts
  • cholangiopancreatography means visualization of the bile ducts (cholangio) and pancreas (pancreato)


Until the 1970s, methods to visualize the bile ducts produced images that were of relatively poor quality and often misleading; in addition, the pancreatic duct could not be examined at all. Patients with symptoms related to the bile ducts or pancreatic ducts frequently needed surgery to diagnose and treat their conditions.
Using ERCP, physicians can obtain high-quality x rays of these structures and identify areas of narrowing (strictures), cancers, and gallstones. This procedure can help determine whether bile or pancreatic ducts are blocked; it also identifies where they are blocked along with the cause of the blockage. ERCP may then be used to relieve the blockage. For patients requiring surgery or additional procedures for treatment, ERCP outlines the anatomical changes for the surgeon.


The most important precaution is that the examination should be performed by an experienced physician. The procedure is much more technically difficult than many other gastrointestinal endoscopic studies. Patients should seek physicians with experience performing ERCP. Patients should inform the physician about any allergies (including allergies to contrast dyes, iodine, or shellfish), medication use, and medical problems. Occasionally, patients may need to be admitted to the hospital after the procedure.


After sedation, a specially adapted endoscope is passed through the mouth, through the stomach, then into the duodenum. The opening to ducts that empty from the liver and pancreas is identified, and a plastic tube or catheter is placed into the orifice (opening). Contrast dye is then injected into the ducts, and with the assistance of a radiologist, pictures are taken.


The upper intestinal tract must be empty for the procedure, so patients should not eat or drink for at least six to 12 hours before the exam. Patients should ask the physician about taking their medications before the procedure.


Someone should be available to take the person home after the procedure and stay with them for a while; patients will not be able to drive themselves because they undergo sedation during this test. Pain or any other unusual symptoms should be reported to the physician.


ERCP-related complications can be broken down into those related to medications used during the procedure, the diagnostic part of the procedure, and those related to endoscopic therapy. The overall complication rate is 5-10%; most of those occur when diagnostic ERCP is combined with a therapeutic procedure. During the exam, the endoscopist can cut or stretch structures (such as the muscle leading to the bile duct) to treat the cause of the patient's symptoms. Although the use of sedatives carries a risk of decreasing cardiac and respiratory function, it is very difficult to perform these procedures without these drugs.

Key terms

Endoscope, endoscopy — An endoscope used in the field of gastroenterology is a hollow, thin, flexible tube that uses a lens or miniature camera to view various areas of the gastrointestinal tract. When the procedure is performed to examine the bile ducts or pancreas, the organs are not viewed directly, but rather indirectly through the injection of contrast. The performance of an exam using an endoscope is referred to as endoscopy. Diagnosis through biopsies or other means and therapeutic procedures can also be done using these instruments.
Visualization — The process of making an internal organ visible. A radiopaque substance is introduced into the body, then an x-ray picture of the desired area is taken.
The major complications related to diagnostic ERCP are pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) and cholangitis (inflammation of the bile ducts). Bacteremia (the passage of bacteria into the blood stream) and perforation (hole in the intestinal tract) are additional risks.

Normal results

Because certain standards have been set for the normal diameter or width of the pancreatic duct and bile ducts, measurements using x rays are taken to determine if the ducts are too large (dilated) or too narrow (strictured). The ducts and gallbladder should be free of stones or tumors.

Abnormal results

When areas in the pancreatic or bile ducts (including those in the liver) are too wide or too narrow compared with the standard, the test is considered abnormal. Once these findings are demonstrated using ERCP, symptoms are usually present; they generally do not change without treatment. Stones, identified as opaque or solid structures within the ducts, are also considered abnormal. Masses or tumors may also be seen, but sometimes the diagnosis is made not by direct visualization of the tumor, but by indirect signs, such as a single narrowing of one of the ducts. Overall, ERCP has an excellent record in diagnosing these abnormalities.



Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography. [cited June 21, 2004]. http://www.asge.org.
Measuring Procedural Skills. [cited June 21, 2004]. http://www.acponline.org/journals/annals/15dec96/procskil.htm.
Treatment of Acute Biliary Pancreatitis. [cited June 21, 2004]. http://content.nejm.org.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


radiographic examination of the bile ducts and pancreas after administration of a contrast medium.
 Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography. At the level of the duodenum, the papilla is located and the cannula is inserted through it. Once the cannula is in the ampulla of Vater, it is passed into the common bile duct. Once that phase of the examination is completed, the cannula is passed into the pancreatic duct. From Malarkey and McMorrow, 2000.
endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) a procedure consisting of a combination of retrograde cholangiography and transhepatic cholangiography. The endoscope is advanced into the duodenum, the biliary tract is cannulated, and contrast medium is injected in order to demonstrate all portions of the biliary tree. See also gallbladder.
Miller-Keane Encyclopedia and Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing, and Allied Health, Seventh Edition. © 2003 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.

en·do·scop·ic ret·ro·grade chol·an·gi·o·pan·cre·a·tog·ra·phy (ERCP),

a method of cholangiopancreatography using an endoscope to inspect and cannulate the ampulla of Vater, with injection of contrast medium for radiographic examination of the pancreatic, hepatic, and common bile ducts.
Farlex Partner Medical Dictionary © Farlex 2012

endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography

Pancreatic ductography Imaging A diagnostic procedure in which an endoscope is snaked to the duodenum, then inserted through the ampulla of Vater with injection of radiocontrast to examine the extrahepatic biliary tract and pancreatic duct system–pancreatic duct, hepatic duct, common bile duct, duodenal papilla, gallbladder; ERCP can be used to remove bile duct stones and obstructions Indications Suspected pancreatic CA–PC, in particular of the periampullary region and chronic pancreatitis Findings In PC, the duct of Wirsprung is often stenosed or occluded; visualization success rate ranges to ±85%. See Rat tail tapering. Cf Percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography.
McGraw-Hill Concise Dictionary of Modern Medicine. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.

en·do·scop·ic ret·ro·grade chol·an·gi·o·pan·cre·a·tog·ra·phy

(ERCP) (en'dŏ-skop'ik ret'rō-grād kō-lan'jē-ō-pan'krē-ă-tog'ră-fē)
A method of cholangiopancreatography using an endoscope to inspect and cannulate the ampulla of Vater, with injection of contrast medium for radiographic examination of the pancreatic, hepatic, and common bile ducts.
Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing © Farlex 2012

endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

A method of X-ray examination of the bile and pancreatic ducts. Using steerable fibreoptic endoscopy, a fine CATHETER is introduced into the common opening, in the duodenum, of the two duct systems and a radio-opaque dye injected. X rays are then taken. The method is valuable in the diagnosis of GALLSTONES, bile duct disorders, PANCREATITIS and cancer of the pancreas.
Collins Dictionary of Medicine © Robert M. Youngson 2004, 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
Shimura et al., "A new cannula with a flexible tip (Swing Tip) may improve the success rate of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography," Endoscopy, vol.
Diagnostic and therapeutic endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) in children and adolescents: experience in a single institution.
[11] indomethacin versus pain associated with an no treatment; before elevated serum amylase of at ERCP least three times the upper limit of normal range at 24 h after the procedure and admission to a hospital for at least 2 nights ERCP: endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography; T/C: treatment/ control.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) in pregnancy without the use of radiation.
Ward, "Acute pancreatitis associated with endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography: systematic evaluation of 99, 483 procedures with qualitative meta-analysis," International Medical Journal, vol.
Since the advent of Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) in adults in 1968 and in children in 1976, it has become a benchmark therapeutic modality in pancreaticobiliary disorders both in adults as well as in children.1 Initially it was restricted to the few centers in the west, now it has become more pervasive all over the world.
Adjunctive surgical procedures, such as biliary drainage, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, and angiographic embolization, were performed with a high degree of success in 42 patients managed nonoperatively, Dr.
Those false-positive tests trigger intervention in the form of endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), which is not a benign procedure.
G-Tube Guided Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography; A Lifesaving Procedure.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is an established procedure with numerous applications in biliary tract disorders.
Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography to exclude downstream obstruction of the MPD is thus more suitable for pseudocysts, which fail to respond to EID.
And because the magnetic resonance method is completely noninvasive, it has less risk of causing complications than the standard method, endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), Dr.

Full browser ?