Recovery Time After an ERCP

An endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreatography examination, or ERCP, is one of today’s premier gastrointestinal assessment tools. It gives GI specialists an accurate view of the structures inside the digestive system, particularly the gallbladder, bile ducts, pancreas, and liver.

Here’s more about ERCP and what your recovery will look like after this exam.

What Does an ERCP Do?

During an ERCP test, the gastroenterologist uses a thin, lighted scope and catheter to introduce contrast dye into the bile ducts and other structures in order to view them on a video monitor and to take still images. The dye outlines the gallbladder, bile duct, pancreas, and liver, and allows the doctor to take precise images for analysis.

As needed, the gastroenterologist can use the images to remove gallstones and tumors, open blocked bile ducts, and install stents to keep ducts open. After the doctor accomplishes the desired tasks, they gently remove the scope and catheter. Most ERCP procedures take no more than two hours, with the vast majority taking only half an hour or so to complete.

What to Expect Before and After an ERCP

This diagnostic procedure requires an eight-hour fast from food and a two-hour fast from all liquids prior to the exam. Your gastroenterologist will tell you which routine medications you may take and which ones to temporarily stop. Usually, patients are asked to stop blood thinners for a specified time before an ERCP examination.

This procedure usually requires no more than sedation and a brief stay in recovery afterwards. Patients who undergo more complicated procedures during an ERCP may require overnight observation in the hospital.

Your doctor will share the test results with you after you have awakened fully from the sedation. The GI specialist will explain what was found and if any biopsies or treatments were performed. Biopsy results take a few days and can be obtained through the doctor’s office.

As for how you will feel after the test, you are likely to experience:

  • A mild sore throat (drink plenty of fluids and consume a soft food diet for a day or two)
  • A feeling of relaxation or sleepiness (you will need a driver to take you home)
  • The need to rest for the remainder of the day

Most ERCP patients return to work and other activities the next day. If your sore throat persists, continue with soft foods and advance the texture as you feel able. Also, avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise routines for a few days.

While most people experience no adverse procedural side effects, be sure to call your GI specialist if you:

  • Run a fever
  • Feel excessively nauseous or vomit
  • Have chest or stomach pain
  • Have bloody or very dark stools

Superior GI Care at Genensis Healthcare Partners

Your digestive health is very important to your overall function and well-being. At Genensis Healthcare Partners in California, our team of 65 board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists use many state-of-the-art assessments, such as EFCP, to find the reasons behind and treat GI symptoms.

At our Glendale location, Dr. Zaree Babakhanian is our ERCP fellowship-trained gastroenterologist. Call us at (818) 790-5914 to book your consultation, or select one of our other providers at a location near you. Appointment requests may be made online, too.

Thank you for trusting us with your digestive health. We look forwarding to seeing you soon.