An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatogram (ERCP) is a test that combines the use of a flexible, lighted scope (endoscope) with X-ray pictures to examine the tubes that drain the liver, gallbladder, and pancreas.

The endoscope is inserted through the mouth and gently moved down the throat into the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum until it reaches the point where the ducts from the pancreas (pancreatic ducts) and gallbladder (bile ducts) drain into the duodenum.

ERCP can treat certain problems found during the test. If an abnormal growth is seen, an instrument can be inserted through the endoscope to obtain a sample of the tissue for further testing (biopsy).

Why It Is Done

ERCP is done to:

  • Check persistent abdominal pain or jaundice.
  • Find gallstones or diseases of the liver, bile ducts, or pancreas.
  • Remove gallstones from the common bile duct if they are causing a problem such as blockage (obstruction), inflammation or infection of the common bile duct (cholangitis), or pancreatitis.
  • Open a narrowed bile duct or insert a drain.
  • Get a tissue sample for further testing (biopsy)