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What is the ERCP medical procedure?

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Quick Answer

The endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or ERCP, is a medical procedure that checks bile tubes by use of an endoscope, notes MedlinePlus. It is applicable in the opening up of ducts into the bowel, stretching bile duct strictures, treating gallstones and diagnosing certain conditions including biliary cirrhosis and sclerosing cholangitis.

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Full Answer

To perform the ERCP procedure, a doctor first advises a patient not to ingest any food or fluid for four or more hours prior to the test, explains MedlinePlus. The doctor then asks the patient to lie on his stomach, puts an IV line in the patient's arm and administers a sedative through the IV. If needed, the doctor may spray the patient's mouth with a numbing medication before protecting the mouth with a mouth guard. He then allows time for the sedative to be effective, inserts an endoscope into the duodenum through the mouth and runs a catheter, which is a thin tube, via the endoscope into the bile ducts. The doctor injects the ducts with a special dye before taking duct X-rays to view tumors, stones, and narrow sections of the ducts.

Though effective, the ERCP procedure may be risky as it may result in complications such as bleeding, bowel perforation and pancreatic inflammation, according to MedlinePlus. The patient may also experience bloating and throat sores. The patient should seek medical attention if the effects persist.

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