ATLANTA (Oct. 5, 2017) – Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta becomes the only pediatric care facility in Georgia to offer a specialized, advanced endoscopic procedure called endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP).
ERCP, a highly specialized endoscopic procedure, treats conditions involving the liver, bile ducts and pancreas. Children’s new ERCP Program is the first in Georgia to be housed within a children’s hospital system, specially tuned to the needs of pediatric patients. The ERCP team, led by Field F. Willingham, MD, MPH, a Pediatric Gastroenterologist at Children's, includes highly specialized professionals who create a personalized treatment approach for each child.
Dr. Willingham is a leading expert in interventional and therapeutic endoscopy, who trained at Harvard Medical School/Massachusetts General Hospital before returning to Atlanta to build the Therapeutic Endoscopy Program at Emory University School of Medicine. As Director of Endoscopy at Emory University and now Medical Director of Therapeutic Endoscopy at Children’s, Dr. Willingham has performed thousands of ERCPs and is considered a national leader in the procedure. Having performed the procedure for years for children on transfer, he performed Children’s first ERCP in 2017, which was transformative for a 5-year-old girl with severe pancreatitis.
“ERCP is a minimally invasive intervention with no abdominal incisions, which can save lives, spare children major abdominal surgery, repair a transplanted liver or cure pancreatitis,” Dr. Willingham said. “It is an honor to be able to care for children needing these procedures at Children’s, where the whole system is tuned around providing the best possible pediatric care.”
In the procedure, a specialized endoscope allows the endoscopist to reach the bile ducts, liver and pancreas from the inside. ERCP combines endoscopy, contrast dye and fluoroscopy (real-time X-rays) to allow minimally invasive treatment for multiple conditions. Patients with pancreatitis, anatomical disorders, jaundice, stones in the bile duct and pancreatic duct, and traumatic injuries may be treated and cured with ERCP. Oftentimes, this procedure can save a patient from major invasive surgery.