An endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure where a long, thin, flexible tube called a scope is inserted through your mouth and guided to the first part of your small intestine called the duodenum. The scope has a light and a camera on the end, allowing the doctor to examine the lining of your esophagus, stomach, small intestine, and the openings to the bile duct and pancreatic duct.
An ERCP is usually done to find out the cause of certain gastrointestinal symptoms, such as:
– Abdominal pain: When you experience pain in your belly.
– Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas, a gland that helps with digestion.
– Abnormal liver test: When your liver function tests show irregular results.
– Abnormal x-ray results: When x-rays of your digestive system show unexpected findings.
If you have any of these symptoms and want to learn more about the ERCP procedure, you can contact The Gut Clinic UK in your community. They have specialists who can provide you with further information and guide you through the process.
Before your exam at The Gut Clinic UK, your doctor will provide you with instructions on how to prepare. In general, you can eat normally the day before the exam. However, starting from midnight, you should not eat or drink anything except for your medications. It’s very important to carefully follow these instructions given by your doctor.
There will also be specific instructions about your medications. In most cases, you can continue taking your medications as usual. However, if you are taking blood thinners like Coumadin, warfarin, Plavix, aspirin, or anti-inflammatories, or if you have diabetes, there may be special instructions for you. Your doctor will give you clear guidance on how to manage your medications before the exam.
It’s crucial to pay close attention to these instructions to ensure the best possible outcome for your exam. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out to your doctor for further clarification and guidance.
On the day of your exam at the endoscopy center, you’ll need to arrive about 1 to 1.5 hours before the scheduled time. This is to complete necessary paperwork and get ready for the exam. You’ll be asked to change into a medical gown and a small tube called an intravenous (IV) catheter will be placed in your arm to give you sedation. This helps you feel relaxed during the procedure. Equipment will be connected to monitor your vital signs like heart rate, blood pressure, pulse, breathing, and oxygen levels.
In the exam room, you’ll be asked to lie on your abdomen on a stretcher. The IV sedation will be started, but only small amounts are given at a time to ensure you don’t have any reactions and to provide the right amount for you. Unlike other endoscopic procedures, it’s common for general anesthesia to be used for this exam. Once you’re adequately sedated, a thin tube called an endoscope will be gently inserted into your mouth. The scope will be carefully guided through your esophagus, stomach, and small intestine until it reaches the point where the bile duct and pancreatic duct open into the small intestine. To help the doctor see better, a small amount of air will be injected through the scope into your digestive tract. Contrast dye will also be injected into the bile duct and pancreatic duct, and an x-ray machine will take pictures to check for any abnormalities. Any remaining fluid in your upper digestive tract can be suctioned out through the scope. Depending on what the doctor finds, they may perform biopsies (taking small tissue samples), sphincterotomy (cutting open the bile or pancreatic duct), remove gallstones or stones from the ducts, or place stents (plastic/metal tubes) into the ducts. At the end of the procedure, as much air and remaining fluid as possible will be suctioned out through the scope. The exam usually takes around 30-90 minutes, depending on the findings.
After the exam, you will be taken to a recovery room where you’ll be monitored while the sedation wears off. The time it takes for you to wake up can vary based on the amount of sedation used and how your body responds to it. Most patients are awake enough to go home within 45-60 minutes. Since you won’t be allowed to drive for the rest of the day, you’ll need to arrange for someone to take you home. You’ll also be advised not to work, sign important papers, or engage in strenuous activities for the remainder of the day. In most cases, you can eat and drink normally after leaving the endoscopy unit, but specific instructions about activity, eating, and medications will be given to you before you’re discharged. In some instances, patients may need to stay in the hospital overnight for monitoring.
After the exam is complete, the doctor or nurse will talk to you about what they found during the procedure. It’s important to know that most patients don’t remember these conversations because of the sedation. If possible, it’s a good idea to bring someone with you who can also hear and remember the results. You will also receive a typed report to take home with you, so you can review the information later on.
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