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Needle-knife assisted ERCP

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During endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP), incising through the wall of the major papilla with an electrocautery needle-knife is a method for achieving access into the bile duct. This procedure, often referred to as a “precut,” may be used when cannulation attempts via the orifice of the papilla are unsuccessful. Potential complications include hemorrhage, duodenal perforation, and acute pancreatitis.


The 172 patients who underwent an attempt of a needle-knife assisted ERCP during the years 1997–2003 at our institution were retrospectively evaluated.


A selective bile duct cannulation was achieved after needle-knife incision in 148 out of 172 patients (86%) at the primary session. In 10 additional patients (6%), a repeated procedure proved successful for cannulation. In the remaining 14 patients (8%), the biliary cannulation failed and was not attempted again. Complications after needle-knife assisted ERCP occurred as follows: three patients (2%) presented with late bleeding after the ERCP and three patients (2%) developed acute pancreatitis. None of the patients required operative treatment for complications. There was no mortality.


The use of the needle-knife markedly improves the success rate of selective biliary cannulation in ERCP without increasing the rate of complications.

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Correspondence to R. Gullichsen.

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Gullichsen, R., Lavonius, M., Laine, S. et al. Needle-knife assisted ERCP. Surg Endosc 19, 1243–1245 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-004-2281-5

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  • Cannulation
  • Endoscopic procedure
  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography
  • Needle-knife
  • Papillotomy