Background: ERCP has become widely available for the diagnosis and treatment of benign and malignant pancreaticobiliary diseases. In this prospective study, the overall complication rate and risk factors for diagnostic and therapeutic ERCP were identified.
Methods: Data were collected prospectively on patient characteristics and endoscopic techniques from 1223 ERCPs performed at a single referral center and entered into a database. Univariate and multivariate analyses were used to identify risk factors for ERCP-associated complications.
Results: Of 1223 ERCPs performed, 554 (45.3%) were diagnostic and 667 (54.7%) therapeutic. The overall complication rate was 11.2%. Post-ERCP pancreatitis was the most common (7.2%) and in 93% of cases was self-limiting, requiring only conservative treatment. Bleeding occurred in 10 patients (0.8%) and was related to a therapeutic procedure in all cases. Nine patients had cholangitis develop, most cases being secondary to incomplete drainage. There was one perforation (0.08%). All other complications totaled 1.5%. Variables derived from cannulation technique associated with an increased risk for post-ERCP pancreatitis were precut access papillotomy (20%), multiple cannulation attempts (14.9%), sphincterotome use to achieve cannulation (13.1%), pancreatic duct manipulation (13%), multiple pancreatic injections (12.3%), guidewire use to achieve cannulation (10.2%), and the extent of pancreatic duct opacification (10%). Patient characteristics associated with an increased risk of pancreatitis were sphincter of Oddi dysfunction (21.7%) documented by manometry, previous ERCP-related pancreatitis (19%), and recurrent pancreatitis (16.2%). Pain during the procedure was an important indicator of an increased risk of post-ERCP pancreatitis (27%). Independent risk factors for post-ERCP pancreatitis were identified as a history of recurrent pancreatitis, previous ERCP-related pancreatitis, multiple cannulation attempts, pancreatic brush cytology, and pain during the procedure.
Conclusions: The most frequent ERCP-related complication was pancreatitis, which was mild in the majority of patients. The frequency of post-ERCP pancreatitis was similar for both diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. Bleeding was rare and mostly associated with sphincterotomy. Other complications such as cholangitis and perforation were rare. Specific patient- and technique-related characteristics that can increase the risk of post-ERCP complications were identified.