Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is a procedure used to diagnose and treat issues with the digestive tract. ERCP is specifically used to access a patient’s bile and pancreatic ducts. ERCP is a generally safe procedure. However, it can pose life-threatening complications. Patients who are advised to undergo an ERCP should be educated on the procedure and its risks and benefits.
Questions before ERCP
Before an ERCP procedure, patients should ask their doctor a series of questions. Asking questions can help inform the patient on the procedure and what the doctor plans to accomplish. By asking questions, patients can also understand possible risks and complications. Educated patients may also be more equipped for recognizing warning signs of dangerous complications.
ERCP Questions to Ask Your Doctor
Patients should be fully aware of why their doctor chose to perform an ERCP to diagnose and treat their condition. Typically, ERCP is only recommended for cases during which doctors suspect that treatment can be administered during the initial diagnostic procedure. Otherwise, ERCP alternatives such as magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) or endoscopic ultrasonography (EUS) are recommended. MRCP and EUS procedures often pose less risk than ERCP procedures.
ERCP Procedure Questions
At a minimum, patients should ask their doctor the three following questions regarding the ERCP procedure:
- What do you expect to find by performing an ERCP?
- What to you plan to do during the procedure?
- Is an ERCP procedure necessary for my condition, or would MRCP or EUS be equally effective?
ERCP Outcome Questions
ERCP complications can be life-threatening. Patients should be thoroughly aware of the possible complications that can occur during or after their ERCP procedure. Patients may exhibit certain risk factors that indicate a greater likelihood of experiencing ERCP complications. Before the procedure, patients should take the opportunity to learn the chances of encountering ERCP complications.
Patients should ask the following questions regarding the potential ERCP outcome:
- What are success rates in patients with similar medical conditions and symptoms?
- What are complication rates in patients with similar medical conditions and symptoms?
- If a complication occurs, what warning signs or symptoms might I experience?
- Do I exhibit any risk factors for ERCP complications?
ERCP Doctor Experience Questions
Patients should also be sure that their doctor has a good amount of experience with performing ERCP procedures. Failure of the doctor to quickly and confidently answer questions may be a warning sign of inexperience or lack of education. Evidence shows that doctor error is a significant contributor to complications after ERCP.
Patients should always ask the following questions regarding the ERCP doctor’s experience:
- What is your level of personal experience with performing ERCP procedures?
- How many times have you performed an ERCP procedure?
- Do you have any recommendations for a more experienced ERCP doctor?
- What percentage of patients experienced complications after you performed their ERCP procedure?
Cotton, Peter B. “Procedures: ERCP.” MUSC Health Digestive Disease Center. MUSC Digestive Disease Center, 31 May 2013. Web. 11 Jul 2013. <http://www.ddc.musc.edu/public/procedures/ERCP.cfm>.
“ERCP (Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography).” National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC). National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse (NDDIC), 29 Jun 2012. Web. 11 Jul 2013. <http://digestive.niddk.nih.gov/ddiseases/pubs/ercp/>.
Ertugrul, Ibrahim. “Risk factors for endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography-related cholangitis: A prospective study.” Turkish Journal of Gastroenterology. 20.2 (2009): 116-121. Web. 4 Jul. 2013. <http://www.turkgastro.org/text.php?id=713>.
“Understanding ERCP.” American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy. Web. 11 Jul 2013. <http://www.asge.org/patients/patients.aspx?id=386>.