Uncovering the Cause of Abdominal Pain with an ERCP Scan

Abdominal pain is among the most common symptoms that bring people to their doctor, but what if you can't find out why it's happening? Usually characterised by an unpleasant sensation in the abdomen or stomach area, it can be mild to severe depending on the cause. 

Uncovering the Cause of Abdominal Pain with an ERCP Scan
[image: pexels by sora shimazaki]

Some abdominal pains are caused by serious health conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease or gallstones. Other abdominal pains can be more easily explained, such as gas or food poisoning. However, abdominal pains may also be the result of something more serious without any symptoms - an ERCP scan can help identify this type of abdominal pain and give you peace of mind.

Types of Abdominal Pain

Abdominal pain can be caused by a range of health issues and it's important to remember that abdominal pains which do not go away may need medical attention. There are many different types of abdominal pain, including:

  • Abdominal cramps or spasms, often associated with nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever and chills
  • Abdominal pain, including bloating, that is normally relieved by bowel movements and returns after the bowels have been cleared of stool or gas
  • Abdominal pain that radiates down one or both legs
  • Abdominal cramps caused by infection of the small intestine, usually due to salmonella bacteria found in undercooked chicken and eggs
  • A sharp abdominal pain that occurs when there is obstruction in the bile ducts due to gallstones or tumors. This type of abdominal pain may be accompanied by yellowing skin and eyes (jaundice)
  • Abdominal pains caused by ovarian cysts. This type of abdominal pain may also be accompanied by bloating and swelling in your abdomen
  • An injury such as a blow to your abdomen from an accident or fall on an outstretched hand
  • Abdominal pain with no known cause, which can be a sign of more serious health problems

Abdominal and stomach pain is often also the result of diet choices and complications, and easing those troubles can be as easy as getting familiar with some herbs that can help fight indigestion.

What is an ERCP and Why Consider Getting One to Diagnose Abdominal Pain

An ERCP scan refers to endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography, and is an imaging technique that uses x-rays and sound waves to diagnose conditions in the bile ducts and pancreas, such as blockage of the pancreatic duct or infection of these organs.

Indeed, as ERCPs are primarily focused on your bile and pancreatic ducts, ERCPs are predominantly required for abdominal pain that is a result of the ducts having narrowed or become blocked - most often due to:

Gallstones having formed in your gallbladder

Acute pancreatitis - a fast-developing inflammation of the pancreas

Chronic pancreatitis - long-term inflammation of the pancreas 

An ERCP is performed by inserting a thin, flexible tube through your mouth and down into the stomach. ERCP also allows for insertion of small surgical instruments; these are used to remove gallstones or insert stents (small tubes) in order to prevent blockage from returning. ERCP is generally safe, but it does carry risks of bleeding and infection, particularly as it requires access to the bile duct and pancreas.

An ERCP is often suggested after an inconclusive scan or abnormal blood test result, but it can also detect when surgery may be needed for organ damage due to inflammation. As well as determining whether surgery would be the best option for you, it can provide vital information as to what type of surgical procedure is most suitable.

ERCPs are performed at specialised facilities by gastroenterologists who have extensive training in the procedure. They can be carried out on an outpatient basis or as part of hospitalization with an overnight stay, after which most people can resume normal activities within a day or two. If you are booked in for an ERCP, general anesthesia will likely be given to make sure that you don't feel a thing during the procedure.

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