ERCP Side Effects

Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) can be helpful in treating specific medical conditions involving the bile and pancreatic ducts. However, ERCP side effects pose a risk to the patient. ERCP side effects can be life-threatening, such as organ perforation or infection. Doctors should carefully evaluate whether or not an ERCP procedure is the right choice for diagnosing and treating a patient’s condition.

ERCP Recovery

Due to the anesthetics and sedation required, the patient should be monitored after an ERCP procedure. Monitoring can help medical professionals determine if the patient is experiencing any immediate ERCP side effects. Additionally, the patient often requires time to allow the sedatives and anesthetics to wear off.

Common ERCP side effects occur immediately after the procedure, including:

  • Mild, temporary sore throat
  • Temporary tiredness of difficulty concentrating
  • Bloating, due to air introduced during the procedure

Severe ERCP Side Effects

While severe ERCP side effects are rare, they can be life-threatening. The risk of death significantly increases if the conditions are not immediately diagnosed. Beginning immediately after the procedure, patients should report all unusual sensations and ailments to their doctor.


Pancreatitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, is one of the most common ERCP side effects. Pancreatitis after ERCP is estimated to occur in roughly three to 10 percent of ERCP patients. In many cases, pancreatitis after ERCP occurs in mild cases. However, severe pancreatitis may be life threatening. Patients with severe pancreatitis after ERCP require hospitalization and professional treatment.

Organ Perforation

Dangerous ERCP side effects include organ perforation, or a tear or hole in an organ’s wall. Organ perforation is rare. When this occurs, surgical intervention is often necessary to fix the perforation and prevent further damage from occurring.


Infection is one of the most common causes of death after an ERCP procedure. Cholangitis, or infection of the common bile duct, may occur. Cholangitis is treated as a medical emergency and should be treated immediately. Cholecystitis is another type of dangerous infection affecting the gallbladder. Cholecystitis also requires immediate medical attention.

Over Sedation

Since an ERCP procedure involves sedation and anesthesia, the patient is at risk for being over-sedated. This is considered a form of ERCP malpractice, as over-sedation is typically a result of neglect or lack of experience from the medical professional who administered the sedatives. Patients who are over-sedated may experience respiratory depression, dangerously low blood pressure, nausea, and vomiting.

ERCP Side Effects

Patients should seek a doctor immediately if they experience the following ERCP side effects:

  • Severe, worsening abdominal pain
  • A distended, firm abdomen
  • Fever or chills
  • Vomiting, especially vomiting blood
  • Difficulty swallowing or breathing
  • Severe sore throat




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