Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) allows the physician to diagnose problems in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. The liver is a large organ that, among other things, makes a liquid called bile that helps with digestion. The gallbladder is a small, pear-shaped organ that stores bile until it is needed for digestion. The bile ducts are tubes that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder and small intestine. These ducts are sometimes called the biliary tree. The pancreas is a large gland that produces chemicals that help with digestion and hormones such as insulin.
ERCP is used primarily to diagnose and treat conditions of the bile ducts, including gallstones, inflammatory strictures or scars, leaks from trauma and surgery, and cancer. ERCP combines the use of x-rays and an endoscope, which is a long, flexible, lighted tube. Through the endoscope, the physician can see the inside of the stomach and inject dyes so that the organs can be seen on x-rays.