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Our Services / ERCP

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About ERCP

Upper abdominal pain on your right side could be due to gallstones. If you have symptoms of gallstones or a condition like pancreatitis, you can undergo advanced ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) at Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, in North Carolina. The practice’s experienced gastroenterologists diagnose your condition and remove your gallstones using ERCP. Contact one of the 13 offices in Charlotte, Belmont, Concord, Davidson, Matthews, Monroe, University, and Pineville, North Carolina, to find out more. Call or book online today.


What is ERCP?

ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) is a procedure your provider at Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, uses to study the upper part of your gastrointestinal system. This includes your:

  • Duodenum (the top of the small intestine)
  • Bile ducts
  • Gallbladder
  • Pancreatic duct

Your provider uses a flexible tube with a tiny camera called an endoscope. This instrument goes down your throat. An ERCP procedure usually lasts 30-60 minutes.

Why might I need ERCP?

The main reason for having ERCP is locating and removing gallstones from your bile duct. 

Gallstones are small, pebble-like objects in your gallbladder, a small organ below your liver. The gallbladder is a pouch for bile, a liquid made in your liver that helps you digest fats. When your body needs bile, the gallbladder pushes some into your small intestine.

Gallstones form when some of the liquid bile hardens. They typically consist of substances found in bile, like cholesterol and bilirubin. 

If there are high levels of these substances in your bile, they can form gallstones. The stones may get stuck in the bile ducts as your gallbladder pushes bile out. This can cause extreme pain and may lead to complications like infection.

Other reasons you might require ERCP include finding causes of acute pancreatitis (inflammation in your pancreas), unblocking ducts when there’s a tumor in them or the pancreas, and resolving leakage from the bile or pancreas ducts.

Your Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, provider usually finds these problems using noninvasive diagnostics, such as abdominal ultrasound or MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography). If these tests identify any abnormalities, your provider can perform ERCP.

What happens when I have ERCP?

To prepare for your ERCP, you lie down on your side. Your provider gives you a sedative to ensure you stay relaxed. It might make you sleepy as well. You also have an anesthetic spray in your mouth to reduce your gag reflex and a mouth guard that protects your teeth.

Your provider gently passes the endoscope into your esophagus and stomach, then on to the duodenum. Air pumped through the endoscope creates room for the instrument to move around. 

Your provider then pushes the endoscope into the papilla, where the pancreatic and gallbladder ducts drain into your duodenum.

Next, your provider feeds a catheter (slim, bendy pipe) through the endoscope and into your papilla to inject a contrast dye. The dye makes X-ray images clearer. Your provider removes the catheter and takes several X-rays. They may also take small tissue samples (biopsies) for further examination.

If your X-rays show you have gallstones in your bile ducts, your provider can insert instruments through the endoscope and remove the stones.

To find out more about having ERCP, call Carolina Digestive Health Associates, PA, today, or book an appointment online.