During an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography procedure, or ERCP, a stent is used to hold the bile or pancreatic duct open and allow proper drainage, according to WebMD. ERCP procedures are performed to trace digestive fluids through the body and diagnose diseases of the gallbladder, pancreas, liver and biliary system.
ERCPs are typically performed by doctors, known as gastroenterologists, who specialize in gastrointestinal diseases, states WebMD. During the procedure, the doctor uses a flexible endoscope with a camera on the end to examine the inside of the digestive system. He inserts a catheter into the bile duct and injects a contrast agent that makes it easy to identify the gallbladder and the bile and pancreatic ducts on X-ray images.
The procedure is generally considered safe; however, in some cases complications such as pancreatitis, bowel perforation, bleeding and infection occur, notes WebMD. ERCPs conducted for treatment such as gallbladder surgery are riskier than those conducted for diagnosis. Patients should consult their doctor about special medical conditions, including pregnancy or allergies to medications, as well as chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease. Patients with an artificial heart valve may require antibiotics for the test, and diabetics may need to adjust insulin dosages on the day of the procedure. Additionally, patients taking blood-thinners may need to discuss alternatives with their primary doctor.