If you’ve had pain in your upper abdomen or lost weight without trying, your healthcare provider might want do a test called E-R-C-P.

E-R-C-P stands for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (en-doh-SKAH-pik REH-troh-grayd koh-LAN-jee-oh-PANG-kree-uh-TAH-gruh-fee).

E-R-C-P is used to diagnose and treat problems in your liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. All of these organs help with digestion.

Your liver is a large organ in the upper right side of your abdomen. Your liver has more than 500 different functions. One of the things it does is make a substance called bile. Bile helps break down foods to digest them. A small organ near the liver called the gallbladder stores the bile until it’s needed.

Tubes called bile ducts carry the bile from your liver to your gallbladder and small intestine. They are sometimes called the biliary tree.

Your pancreas is a large gland that also helps with digestion. It makes chemicals that are sent into the small intestine through a duct. E-R-C-P can look at all of these organs and ducts.

The Procedure

Depending on the time of your procedure, you will be told to not eat or drink several hours before your procedure. Your stomach and duodenum must be empty for the procedure to be accurate and safe.

Also, tell your healthcare provider if you have any allergies, especially to iodine. Iodine is in the special dye used during E-R-C-P.

Before the procedure begins, you are given medication to help numb the back of your throat. You also get a sedative to help you relax during the exam.

You will be positioned on your left side on an examining table in an x-ray room. You swallow the endoscope. An endoscope is a long, flexible tube that contains a tiny light and camera.

You swallow the endoscope. It is then guided through your esophagus, your stomach, and the first part of your small intestine.

You then turn to lie flat on your stomach. A small tube is passed through the scope. A special dye is sent through the tube. This is so the ducts and organs can be seen on an x-ray. The insides of these organs are checked for any problems.

The exam might show a gallstone or narrowing of the ducts. If so, tools can be put through the scope to remove a stone or fix a blockage. A tissue sample, called a biopsy, may be taken for further testing.

E-R-C-P takes 30 minutes to 2 hours. After the procedure, you will not be able to leave until the sedative wears off. A family member or friend will need to drive you home. If any kind of treatment is done during E-R-C-P, such as removing a gallstone, you may need to stay in the hospital overnight.

Things to Remember

  • Follow all instructions to prepare for your procedure. This will help make sure it goes smoothly.
  • Tell your healthcare provider about any allergies you have, especially to iodine.
  • Make sure a family member or friend is available to drive you home.

E-R-C-P can help find out the cause of problems such as pain, jaundice, and unexplained weight loss. If you have any of these symptoms, ask your healthcare provider more about E-R-C-P.

What We Have Learned

  1. Bile is made in the liver. True or false?
    The answer is True. It is made in the liver and stored in the gallbladder.

  2. Bile ducts carry bile from the gallbladder to the pancreas. True or false?
    The answer is False. They carry bile from the gallbladder to the small intestine.

  3. Your liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas help you breathe. True or false?
    The answer is False. These organs all help you digest food.