Recovery after an ERCP

ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangio pancreatography)

An ERCP is used to diagnose and treat problems with your biliary system. This system makes, stores and transports a fluid called bile, which helps your body to digest fat.

After the ERCP, you might have some tummy (abdominal) pain, bloating or discomfort when swallowing for a few days.

If you had sedation or a general anaesthetic and are leaving hospital within 24 hours, you must have someone to take you home and stay with you overnight. This person must be at least 18 years old.

Recovering after an ERCP

The nurse takes you to a recovery area. They check your pulse and blood pressure (observations) regularly, and monitor you for any complications.

  • You need to stay in the endoscopy unit for 4 to 6 hours. This allows us to check if you have any complications.
  • If you are being transferred to your own hospital by ambulance, you will need to stay in the endoscopy unit until you are fully awake. This usually takes at least 1 hour.

Usual medicines

Keep taking your usual medicines, unless we tell you not to do this. If you were asked to stop any medicines before the procedure, your doctor or nurse will tell you when you can start taking them again.

Eating and drinking

In most cases, you can eat as usual when you are fully awake. Sometimes, however, we might ask you not to eat anything for 12 hours or more. This depends on what type of treatment you had during the ERCP.

Your doctor or nurse gives you more information on how long to wait before eating and drinking after your ERCP. They also tell you if you need a soft diet and when you can start eating solid foods again.

After you leave hospital

If you had sedation or a general anaesthetic and are going home within 24 hours, you must have someone to take you home and stay with you overnight. This person must be at least 18 years old.

You need to rest at home. The sedation lasts longer than you might think. Please follow these instructions for the first 24 hours after sedation.

Don't

  • do not drive a car or ride a bicycle
  • do not use machinery or do anything that involves skill or judgement
  • do not drink alcohol
  • do not take sleeping tablets
  • do not go to work
  • do make any important decisions
  • do not sign contracts or other legal documents

Contact your GP or go to the nearest A&E if:

  • you have severe tummy (abdominal) pain
  • your pain is getting worse
  • you have a high temperature (fever)
  • your poo is black
  • you have yellow skin or eyes (jaundice)
  • you cannot stop being sick (vomiting)

Take your endoscopy report with you.

It is important to tell your GP or the emergency department doctor that you had an ERCP. They then contact the gastroenterology team for specialist advice.

Side effects after an ERCP

You might have discomfort when swallowing for at least 48 hours after an ERCP. This discomfort can last for several weeks, but it gets better.

If you have any bloating or tummy discomfort, this might be from the air that we put into your stomach during the procedure. This is normal and should settle within 24 hours.

If the bloating or tummy discomfort does not settle, try to release the trapped wind. You can do this by moving about and changing position. Warm drinks or peppermint might also help. Try peppermint tea or peppermint water (you can buy this at a pharmacy).

We give you pain medicine into your bottom (a suppository) before the end of the procedure. This reduces the risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas).

You can take simple painkillers, such as paracetamol, after an ERCP. You can buy them from a pharmacy or shop. Always follow the instructions and take the recommended amount (dose) on the leaflet that comes with the medicine.

Results of your ERCP

Your doctor or nurse talks to you about the procedure and any next steps before you leave hospital. However, it might be hard to remember the details if you are sleepy.

We send your results to the doctor who referred you for the test (your GP or hospital doctor). When you leave hospital, we also give you an endoscopy report. Many GPs do not get this report on their system for about 10 days to 2 weeks after your procedure.

Please do not contact the endoscopy unit for your biopsy results, as we cannot give them to you.

If you do not get your results within 4 weeks, please contact one of the numbers below. This depends on which clinic is listed on your report.

 

  • Surgical virtual clinic (SVC), phone: 020 7188 7188 extension 53075
  • Gastroenterology virtual clinic (GVC), phone: 020 7188 7188 extension 8779

Follow-up appointment

If your results suggest that you need a follow-up appointment, the patient access team at the hospital will contact you to arrange this.

We usually send you details of the follow-up appointment in the post. However, if your case is urgent, we will give you the details of the appointment on the day of your ERCP.

We might tell you that your follow-up is at a virtual clinic. This is when the medical team reviews your results without you being there. They decide the next steps based on your results.

After the virtual clinic, you and your GP get a letter. This explains if you need to go to an outpatient clinic at the hospital or can return to your GP's care.

Resource number: 2559/VER5
Last reviewed: December 2021
Next review: December 2024

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns about having an ERCP and you are in hospital, please speak to your nurse.

If you are at home and you have any questions, or you need to cancel or change your appointment, please contact the endoscopy unit.

Phone: 020 7188 8887, Monday to Saturday, 9am to 5pm

You can also contact:

In an emergency

Out of hours (evenings and weekends), please phone 020 7188 7188 and ask to be put through to the on-call gastroenterology registrar (through a system called RotaWatch).

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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