ERCP, or Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography, is an endoscopic procedure used to study the bile ducts, pancreatic duct and gallbladder. Ducts are drainage routes; the drainage channels from the liver are called bile or biliary ducts. The pancreatic duct is the drainage channel from the pancreas. The ERCP is usually performed to diagnose the cause of gastrointestinal symptoms such as abdominal pain, pancreatitis, abnormal liver test, or abnormal x-ray results.

During an ERCP, your doctor will gently insert an endoscope through your mouth, esophagus and stomach, into the duodenum (first part of the small intestine). This scope is a long thin, flexible tube that lets your doctor see inside your bowels.

After your doctor sees the common opening to the ducts from the liver and pancreas he will pass a narrow plastic tube called a catheter through the endoscope and into the ducts. Your doctor will inject a contrast material (dye) into the pancreatic or biliary ducts and will take X-rays.