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What is an ERCP?

ERCP stands for Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio-Pancreatography. It is a way of examining the tubes that drain bile from the liver and pancreatic fluid into the small bowel. Bile and pancreatic fluid are used by the body to help digest fats and proteins (bile ducts, pancreatic ducts and gall bladder: see diagram in the section “what happens during the ERCP”).

The procedure may be diagnostic or therapeutic:

Diagnostic ERCP gives information about the bile ducts and the pancreatic ducts. It may show for example, narrowing, obstruction or gall stones

Therapeutic ERCP means the endoscopist may need to undertake minor operations during the procedure such as sphincterotomy, stent insertion or gallstone removal.

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