ERCP Specialist

Gastrointestinal Medicine Associates

Gastroenterologists located in Fairfax, VA & Reston, VA

Yellow skin and eyes, abdominal pain, itchy skin, and clay-colored stools are all signs that you may need an endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, or more simply, ERCP. This advanced procedure allows the experienced team at Gastrointestinal Medicine Associates to examine and treat the small ducts connecting your gallbladder and pancreas to your small intestine. Call one of the offices in Fairfax and Reston, Virginia, if you have any questions about your symptoms or would like to learn more about ERCP.

ERCP Q&A

What is ERCP?

ERCP is a procedure that’s performed to examine, diagnose, and treat problems in your pancreatic and bile ducts. Your provider at Gastrointestinal Medicine Associates performs an ERCP using a long, narrow, flexible device called an endoscope.

The endoscope contains a video camera that transmits images from inside your gastrointestinal tract to a monitor. Your provider can guide specialized tools through the scope and use them to treat some problems.

When would I need ERCP?

Your gallbladder stores bile, releasing it into the common bile duct as needed. The common bile duct opens into the small intestine, where it delivers the bile needed to digest fats.

Your pancreas also supports digestion by producing enzymes that break down fats, carbs, and proteins. Pancreatic enzymes go into the pancreatic ducts, which empty into the common bile duct.

The conditions that affect these structures and can be diagnosed with ERCP include:

  • Gallstones
  • Bile duct tumors
  • Bile duct cysts
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Infection
  • Pancreatitis
  • Cholecystitis
  • Scarring (sclerosis)

These conditions can block the ducts, causing bile and enzymes to accumulate in the gallbladder and pancreas.

How do I prepare for an ERCP?

The team at Gastrointestinal Medicine Associates gives you specific instructions to follow before your ERCP. You may need to stop taking certain medications, and you’ll need to fast for about 6-8 hours before the test. Fasting clears out foods that might interfere with the images visible through the scope.

How is an ERCP performed?

After spraying a local anesthetic in your throat and giving you IV sedation, your provider guides the endoscope through your mouth, esophagus, and stomach and into the upper part of your small intestine. 

From there, they find the openings to the ducts. Then they thread a catheter through the scope and into the duct and inject dye into the tubules.

For the next step, they take X-rays. The dye shows up on the X-ray, producing images that show the structures and any problems inside the structures.

What treatments are done during an ERCP?

During your ERCP, your physician at Gastrointestinal Medicine Associates may:

  • Perform a biopsy
  • Insert a stent
  • Open blocked ducts
  • Break up and remove stones
  • Remove a tumor

Most ERCPs take 30-60 minutes, but they can go longer if you need treatment.

If you need help with abdominal pain or you have a question about the ERCP procedure, don’t wait to call Gastrointestinal Medicine Associates.