ERCP as Inpatient


ERCP As Inpatient Information

This section of the wesbite details what an ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography) is, and provides information for patients preparing for the procedure.

What is an ERCP?

An ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangio Pancreatography) is a test to examine the tubes that drain bile from your liver (the bile duct and gallbladder), and digestive juices from the pancreas (pancreatic duct). You will lie on an X-ray table and the doctor who is to perform the test will explain briefly what will happen. Your throat will be numbed with a special spray. You will be given an injection (sedation) which will make you very sleepy.

Once you are sleepy, an endoscope (a long, thin flexible tube with a bright light at one end) will be passed through your mouth, down into your stomach and the upper part of the small intestine (the duodenum). A small plastic mouth guard will be used to protect the endoscope and you will be given a little oxygen to breathe during the test.

X-ray dye will be injected down the endoscope so that the pancreas and bile ducts may be seen on X-ray films. If everything is normal, the endoscope is then removed and the test is complete. The dye is passed out of your body harmlessly.

If the X-rays show a gallstone, the doctor may enlarge the opening of the bile duct (sphincterotomy) to allow the stones to pass into the intestine. If a narrowing is found, bile can be drained by leaving a short plastic tube (stent) in the bile duct. You will not be aware of the presence of the tube which may remain in place permanently.

Before the procedure

It will be arranged for you to come in to hospital the day before the ERCP. This is because prior to the procedure you must have a blood test, unless this test is done the doctor cannot carry out the ERCP. The ward doctors and nurses will also be able to assess your health and explain the procedure in more detail.

You will be staying for at least one night so please bring whatever you need with you, e.g. night clothes, slippers, toiletries. Please leave your valuables etc. at home.

The day of the procedure

To allow a clear view, the stomach and duodenum must be empty. You will therefore be asked not to have anything to eat for at least six hours before the procedure and on the day of your procedure to only drink clear fluids, stopping two hours prior to your test.

You will be brought over to our department by a hospital porter. Once in the department you will be asked to undress and wear a hospital gown. It will also be necessary for you to remove any false teeth.

Medicines and Medical Conditions

It is important you bring a list of your current medication with you so that you can give it to the nurse on arrival.


If you are taking Warfarin tablets, please inform the Gastroenterology Unit as soon as possible, as our doctors may decide that it is necessary for you to stop taking your tablets for a limited time before the gastroscopy.


If you suffer from diabetes, please inform the Gastroenterology Unit as soon as possible, as it may be necessary to change the time of your appointment or be admitted to hospital a day before your procedure for treatment. If your diabetes is managed by your GP please contact the surgery for advice. If under the care of Elsie Bertram Diabetes Centre, please contact your Diabetes specialist nurse on 01603 288513.


If you are pregnant or breast-feeding please contact the Gastroenterology Unit.


When you come to the department, the procedure will be explained and a doctor will ask you to sign a consent form. This is to ensure you understand the test and its implications/risks. If you have any worries or questions at this stage don’t be afraid to ask. The staff will want you to be as relaxed as possible for the test and will not mind answering your queries.

After the procedure

You will be left to rest, as you will feel sleepy. The nurses will advise you when you can eat and drink. The staff will explain the results of the tests and what treatment has been given. You will be taken back to the ward by the porter. You will usually be kept on the ward overnight.

If you are allowed to go home later that day you must have someone to escort you home and stay with you for the 24 hours after your test. Following sedation you must not do any of the following for 24 hours:

  • Drive a motor vehicle
  • Drink Alcohol
  • Operate Machinery
  • Sign Legal Documents

Side effects of this procedure are usually minimal, sometimes patients may experience discomfort and / or a sore throat for a few days. This can be relieved by normal analgesia. You will be given an advice sheet on after care and signs to watch for when you have had your procedure.

Risks and Complications

This procedure is very safe with only minimal complications. The two commonest are pancreatitis and bleeding. The incidence of these complication are small, but if you have any problems after ERCP which you may feel to be related to the test please inform your doctor or the hospital staff at once.

Acute pancreatitis

This is inflammation of the pancreas and can cause abdominal pain often going into the back and associated with vomiting.


Bleeding can occur if a cut has been made to remove stones. Bleeding can cause vomiting of blood which may be black, or the passing dark black stools.

Useful sources of information

Additional information can be found at these websites:

National Library of Medicine

The American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy

CORE (formally Digestive Disorders Foundation)