What does the examination involve?

  • Your throat may be sprayed with a local anaesthetic that has a numbing affect; this has a slightly bitter taste.
  • You will be asked to lie on your left side with your left arm behind your back as you may be turned onto your stomach during the test.
  • Then while you are lying on your left side, a small mouth-guard will be placed in your mouth in order to protect your teeth.
  • A sedative and painkiller are given before the examination. This will help you feel more relaxed and sleepy. (This needle will be left lightly strapped to your hand/arm until you are recovered from the procedure for any other drugs that may be needed).
  • A small device for recording the pulse and breathing will be attached to your finger and you will be given oxygen
  • A cuff will be placed on your arm to monitor your blood pressure if you have sedation (please inform the nurse if there is a reason why a certain arm cannot be used).
  • Three small dots will be placed on your back to monitor your heart during the procedure.
  • A sticky pad may be placed on your thigh if diathermy is needed during the procedure
  • Once you are sleepy the endoscopist will begin the test.
  • The stomach and duodenum will be gently inflated with air to expand it so the lining can be seen more clearly. The air is sucked out at the end of the test.
  • A muscle relaxant is given to stop your bowel moving.
  • The nurse may need to clear saliva from your mouth using a small suction tube.
  • If a narrowing is found in the bile duct, a small plastic tube (stent) is inserted to allow the bile to drain. This may stay in place permanently or be removed at a later date.
  • If the endoscopist finds a gallstone(s) in the bile duct during the ERCP, the opening of the bile duct will be enlarged with a cut using an electrical current (diathermy). This will allow the stones to be removed. If the stone is very large, or if there are a lot of stones, it may not be possible to remove the stone(s) in one go. In this case a stent is left in the bile duct and a further appointment will be arranged.
  • A biopsy (a small sample of the lining of your bowel) may be taken during the examination to be sent to the laboratory for more tests. You cannot feel this. (A video recording and/or photographs may be taken for your records). Afterwards the duodenoscope is removed easily.
  • In about one in 20 cases it will not be possible to treat your problem at ERCP. For example, the opening of the bile duct may be too narrow to allow the catheter to be inserted. If this occurs, then further treatment options will be discussed with you after the test.

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