ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography)
An ERCP is a test that allows doctors to look at the pancreas, gallbladder and bile duct. They can take a biopsy during the test.
Doctors may use an ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography) to help diagnose pancreatic cancer, gallbladder cancer or bile duct cancer. The doctor can take a biopsy during the test. It can also be used to unblock the bile ducts and relieve jaundice.
The doctor passes a thin, flexible tube called an endoscope down your throat. This goes down into your stomach and into the first part of the small bowel (duodenum).
You should not eat or drink anything for 6 hours before the test. This is so your stomach and the first part of your small bowel (duodenum) are empty.
You will have antibiotics before an ERCP, to help prevent infection. You may need to stay in hospital overnight.
The doctor or nurse will give you a tablet or an injection to relax you (a sedative). They also use a local anaesthetic spray to numb your throat. Rarely, doctors do this test under general anaesthetic (while you are asleep).
Your doctor will look down the endoscope. This helps them find the openings where the bile duct and the pancreatic duct drain into the duodenum. They can inject a dye which shows up on x-rays into the ducts. This helps them to see if there is a blockage, or any abnormal areas.
If there is a blockage, your doctor may put in a small tube to open the duct. This is called a stent.
Below is a sample of the sources used in our gallbladder cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Biliary Cancer: ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines for diagnosis, treatment and follow up. 2016. Vol 27, 5. pp.28-37.
Uptodate: Surgical management of gallbladder cancer. 2018. www.uptodate.com/contents/surgical-management-of-gallbladder-cancer
This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Dr Paul Ross, Consultant Medical Oncologist.
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