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ERCP aftercare advice


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It's common to feel bloated or have stomach cramps after an endoscopic examination of your bilary system, which consists of your liver, gall bladder, pancreas, pancreatic and bile ducts. This guidance should help you to care for yourself after your examination and understand what to do if there's a problem.

When can I leave hospital?

You will be able to leave hospital when the doctor or nurse looking after you says you are well enough. You will be kept under observation for four hours after the procedure, unless you are being transferred back to your own hospital by ambulance.

The sedation lasts longer than you may think, so in the first 24 hours after your examination you should not

  • drive or ride a bicycle/car
  • operate machinery or do anything requiring skill or judgement
  • cook
  • drink alcohol
  • take sleeping tablets
  • sign legal documents, make any important decisions, or sign contracts.

If you have had sedation you will need someone to escort you home and we advise that they stay with you for 24 hours.

We will give you a copy of your report and send a copy to your GP the day after your procedure.  However, many GPs may not have this report on their system for about 10 days to 2 weeks after your procedure.

After I leave hospital

You will be given advice on what you can eat and drink before you leave hospital.

You can take your other prescription drugs.

If you had sedation you should rest at home following your procedure and should be able to carry out your normal activities 24 hours after the test.

Will I be in pain?

You may experience discomfort when swallowing for at least 48 hours. This sensation can remain for several weeks but will resolve.

If you have any bloating or abdominal discomfort this may be from the air that was put into your bowel by the endoscopist during the examination.  This is normal and should settle within 24 hours.

We will give you pain killing suppositories (into your back passage) before the end of the procedure to reduce the risk of inflammation (pancreatitis). You can take painkiller tablets such as paracetamol to help relieve any pain.

If your discomfort doesn’t settle, try to pass wind. You can try to move about and change position to help settle the air in your bowel. You can also try warm drinks, or peppermint water (sold over the counter at most Pharmacy’s) or peppermint tea.

What should I do if I have a problem?

Call the endoscopy department if you have any questions or concerns. If you develop severe abdominal pain with or without nausea and vomiting please let us know immediately as this could be a sign of pancreatitis.

You should consult your GP or go to your nearest emergency department (A&E) if you develop any of the following symptoms. You should take your endoscopy report with you.

  • Severe, persistent or worsening tummy pain
  • A fever (temperature above 37.5⁰c)
  • You have black or red poo (known as melaena)
  • Jaundice (yellow colour in your skin, nails and eyes)
  • You are unable to stop being sick.

IMPORTANT - Tell your GP or the emergency doctor that you have had an ERCP so they contact the Gastroenterology team for specialist advice.

Will I have a follow-up appointment?

The endoscopist or recovery nurses will explain your procedure and explain any next steps before you leave hospital and give you a copy of your report. Sometimes due to the sedation you may be sleepy and not able to remember the details and we are happy to explain by phone at a later date.

If you need a follow up appointment and you do not already have one booked, this will be posted out to you for the next available clinic, or if it is urgent, we arrange this before you leave.  

If you have had any samples taken the results will be sent to the Doctor who referred you or they will be reviewed in a virtual clinic and the results will be sent to your GP. A virtual clinic is where a gastroenterologist or surgeon will review your notes and results rather than have you attend a face to face appointment. You will be sent a letter from this clinic with your outcome and results of any biopsies and next steps such as being discharged back to your GP or a follow up review in clinic.


Please do not contact the Endoscopy Unit for your biopsy results as they are unable to give them to you. If you have not received your results within 4 weeks please contact the numbers below. If on your report your follow up is:

  • Surgical Virtual Clinic (SVC) call 020 7188 7188 ask for extension 53075
  • Gastroenterology Virtual Clinic (GVC) call 020 7188 7188 ask for extension 87790.

Contact us

If you have any questions or concerns please contact the St Thomas’ Endoscopy Department on 020 7188 7188 then dial or ask for the extension number below. Opening hours:  Monday to Friday 8am to 7pm

Reception desk: extension 54046 (Monday to Friday 8am to 4.30pm)

Nurse in charge: extension 54059 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm)

Out of hours: ask for the on call Gastroenterology Registrar (via Rota watch).

Guy’s Hospital Endoscopy Dept tel: 020 7188 1734 (Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm)

Useful sources of information

Guts UK

This is a charity that specialises in providing information about diseases and problems that people may have with their digestive system or gut. 



Ref number: 5064/VER1

Date published: September 2020 | Review date: September 2023

© 2020 Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust

A list of sources is available on request


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