Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a medical procedure that is used to diagnose conditions that involve a patient’s bile and pancreatic ducts. These conditions may include tumors, stones, leaks, or narrowing in the ducts. ERCP procedures are performed for both diagnostic and therapeutic reasons.
A number of ERCP side effects can occur from the procedure. For this reason, ERCP is rarely recommended solely to diagnose a condition. Instead, ERCP procedures are recommended when doctors suspect that treatment can be administered during the initial procedure. Before undergoing an ERCP procedure, patients should be informed about the process and the risks that may be involved.
How Is an ERCP Performed?
The procedure is performed using an endoscope. An endoscope is a lighted, tube-like instrument fitted with video equipment in order to provide images of the patient’s ducts. During an ERCP, the endoscope is inserted through the patient’s mouth and down through the esophagus. It is then gently worked through the stomach and into the upper part of the small intestine.
The endoscope has a hollow center. A tube is inserted into this hollow center that holds a contrast medium, or dye. After the dye is cycled into the tube, X-rays are taken. The dye can highlight areas that may not have been easily viewed, and can alert doctors to certain issues.
ERCP is only recommended based on specific ailments. This is because treatment may be provided for these ailments using the already-inserted tube. Administering treatment during an ERCP eliminates the need for a second operation. In turn, this lowers the risks that are inherent when a patient is placed under anesthesia and undergoes any type of medical procedure.
Types of treatments administered during ERCP include:
- Stents for drainage of fluids
- Removal of gallstones
- Opening of sphincters
- Stretching of narrow segments
ERCP Side Effects and Risks
The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse indicates that roughly six to 10 percent of ERCP patients experience ERCP side effects. When doctors find reason to recommend an ERCP, these risks may be mitigated through thorough patient disclosure of all allergies, current medications, and other health concerns. Doctors may require patients to suspend use of medications or vitamins to avoid complications associated with those medications and vitamins.
ERCP side effects and risks may include:
- Inflammation of the pancreas
- Organ perforation
- Low blood pressure
- Problems emptying bowel or bladder
- Throat spasm
- Blurred vision
- Breathing Complications
Before undergoing an ERCP procedure, patients should ask their ERCP plenty of questions. Patient knowledge and active involvement may help to reduce the risk of ERCP malpractice. Negligence or inexperience during an ERCP procedure may lead to severe injury or death. Patients who suspect that they may be a victim of ERCP malpractice should consult an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
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