Stricter national standards are required for credentialing of endoscopic-retrograde-cholangiopancreatography in the United States

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World Journal of Gastroenterology


© The Author(s) 2019. Published by Baishideng Publishing Group Inc. All rights reserved. Endoscopic-retrograde-cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) is now a vital modality with primarily therapeutic and occasionally solely diagnostic utility for numerous biliary/pancreatic disorders. It has a significantly steeper learning curve than that for other standard gastrointestinal (GI) endoscopies, such as esophagogastroduodenoscopy or colonoscopy, due to greater technical difficulty and higher risk of complications. Yet, GI fellows have limited exposure to ERCP during standard-three-year-GI-fellowships because ERCP is much less frequently performed than esophagogastroduodenoscopy/colonoscopy. This led to adding an optional year of training in therapeutic endoscopy. Yet many graduates from standard three-year-fellowships without advanced training intensely pursue independent/unsupervised ERCP privileges despite inadequate numbers of performed ERCPs and unacceptably low rates of successful selective cannulation of desired (biliary or pancreatic) duct. Hospital credentialing committees have traditionally performed ERCP credentialing, but this practice has led to widespread flouting of recommended guidelines (e.g., planned privileging of applicant with 20% successful cannulation rate, or after performing only 7 ERCPs); and intense politicking of committee members by applicants, their practice groups, and potential competitors. Consequently, some gastroenterologists upon completing standard fellowships train and learn ERCP “on the job” during independent/unsupervised practice, which can result in bad outcomes: high rates of failed bile duct cannulation. This severe clinical problem is indicated by publication of ≥ 12 ERCP competency studies/guidelines during last 5 years. However, lack of mandatory, quantitative, ERCP credentialing criteria has permitted neglect of recommended guidelines. This work comprehensively reviews literature on ERCP credentialing; reviews rationales for proposed guidelines; reports problems with current system; and proposes novel criteria for competency. This work advocates for mandatory, national, written, minimum, quantitative, standards, including cognitive skills (possibly assessed by a nationwide examination), and technical skills, assessed by number performed (≥ 200-250 ERCPs), types of ERCPs, success rate (approximately ≥ 90% cannulation of desired duct), and letters of recommendation by program director/ERCP mentor. Mandatory criteria should ideally not be monitored by a hospital committee subjected to intense politicking by applicants, their employers, and sometimes even competitors, but an independent national entity, like the National Board of Medical Examiners/American Board of Internal Medicine.





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