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Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography (ERCP)

If gallstones are in the bile ducts, the doctor may use endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) to locate and remove the stones before or during gallbladder surgery.

During the procedure, your throat will be sprayed with a local anesthetic. You will be given medication through an IV to help you relax. Then, a long, thin, flexible, lighted tube (endoscope) connected to a computer and TV monitor will be passed through your mouth. The doctor will guide the endoscope through the stomach and into the small intestine. You may feel bloated during and after the procedure. Air is used to inflate the small intestine. The doctor then injects a special dye that temporarily stains the ducts in the biliary system. The affected bile duct is then located. An instrument on the endoscope is used to open the duct. The stone is then captured in a tiny basket and removed with the endoscope.

Occasionally, a person who has had a cholecystectomy is diagnosed with a gallstone in the bile ducts weeks, months, or even years after the surgery. The two-step ERCP procedure is usually successful in removing the stone.

Contact your doctor if you have:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever

Current Surgical Diagnosis & Treatment. 10th ed. Appleton & Lange; 1994.

National Institute of Diabetes & Digestive & Kidney Disease website. Available at: http://www2.niddk.nih.gov.

Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons website. Available at: http://www.sages.org.

Last reviewed October 2012 by Marcin Chwistek, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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