PL/SQL REF CURSOR and OracleRefCursor

The REF CURSOR is a datatype in the Oracle PL/SQL language. It represents a cursor or a result set in Oracle Database. The OracleRefCursor object is a corresponding ODP.NET type for the REF CURSOR type.

This section discusses the following aspects of using the REF CURSOR datatype and OracleRefCursor objects:

Obtaining an OracleRefCursor Object

There are no constructors for OracleRefCursor objects. They can be acquired only as parameter values from PL/SQL stored procedures, stored functions, or anonymous blocks.

An OracleRefCursor object is a connected object. The connection used to execute the command returning an OracleRefCursor object is required for its lifetime. Once the connection associated with an OracleRefCursor object is closed, the OracleRefCursor object cannot be used.

Obtaining a REF CURSOR Datatype

A REF CURSOR datatype can be obtained as an OracleDataReader, DataSet, or OracleRefCursor object. If the REF CURSOR datatype is obtained as an OracleRefCursor object, it can be used to create an OracleDataReader object or populate a DataSet from it. When accessing a REF CURSOR datatype, always bind it as an OracleDbType.RefCursor parameter.

Populating an OracleDataReader from a REF CURSOR

A REF CURSOR datatype can be obtained as an OracleDataReader object by calling the ExecuteReader method of the OracleCommand object. The output parameter with the OracleDbType property set is bound to OracleDbType.RefCursor. None of the output parameters of type OracleDbType.RefCursor is populated after the ExecuteReader method is invoked.

If there are multiple output REF CURSOR parameters, use the NextResult method of the OracleDataReader object to access the next REF CURSOR datatype. The OracleDataReader NextResult method provides sequential access to the REF CURSOR datatypes; only one REF CURSOR datatype can be accessed at a given time.

The order in which OracleDataReader objects are created for the corresponding REF CURSOR datatypes depends on the order in which the parameters are bound. If a PL/SQL stored function returns a REF CURSOR datatype, then it becomes the first OracleDataReader object and all the output REF CURSOR datatypes follow the order in which the parameters are bound.

Populating the DataSet from a REF CURSOR

For the Fill method to populate the DataSet properly, the SelectCommand property of the OracleDataAdapter class must be bound with an output parameter of type OracleDbType.RefCursor. If the Fill method is successful, the DataSet is populated with a DataTable that represents a REF CURSOR datatype.

If the command execution returns multiple REF CURSOR datatypes, the DataSet is populated with multiple DataTable objects.

Populating an OracleRefCursor from a REF CURSOR

When the ExecuteNonQuery method is invoked on a command that returns one or more REF CURSOR datatypes, each of the OracleCommand parameters that are bound as an OracleDbType.RefCursor gets a reference to an OracleRefCursor object.

To create an OracleDataReader object from an OracleRefCursor object, invoke the GetDataReader method from the OracleRefCursor object. Subsequent calls to the GetDataReader method return a reference to the same OracleDataReader object.

To populate a DataSet with an OracleRefCursor object, the application can invoke a Fill method of the OracleDataAdapter class that takes an OracleRefCursor object. Similar to the OracleDataReader object, an OracleRefCursor object is forward-only. Therefore, once a row is read from an OracleRefCursor object, that same row cannot be obtained again from it unless it is populated again from a query.

When multiple REF CURSOR datatypes are returned from a command execution as OracleRefCursor objects, the application can choose to create an OracleDataReader object or populate a DataSet with a particular OracleRefCursor object. All the OracleDataReader objects or DataSet objects created from the OracleRefCursor objects are active at the same time, and can be accessed in any order.

Updating a DataSet Obtained from a REF CURSOR

REF CURSOR types cannot be updated. However, data that is retrieved into a DataSet can be updated. Therefore, the OracleDataAdapter class requires a custom SQL statement to flush any REF CURSOR data updates to the database.

The OracleCommandBuilder object cannot be used to generate SQL statements for REF CURSOR updates.

Behavior of ExecuteScalar Method for REF CURSOR

The ExecuteScalar method returns the value of the first column of the first row of the REF CURSOR if it is one of the following:

  • A return value of a stored function execution

  • The first bind parameter of a stored procedure execution

Passing a REF CURSOR to a Stored Procedure

An application can retrieve a REF CURSOR type from a PL/SQL stored procedure or function and pass it to another stored procedure or function. This feature is useful in scenarios where a stored procedure or a function returns a REF CURSOR type to the .NET application, and based on the application logic, the application passes this REF CURSOR to another stored procedure for processing. Note that if you retrieve the data from a REF CURSOR type in the .NET application, you cannot pass it back to another stored procedure.

The following example demonstrate passing a REF CURSOR:

connect scott/tiger@oracle
create table test (col1 number);
insert into test(col1) values (1);
create or replace package testPkg as type empCur is REF Cursor;
end testPkg;
create or replace procedure testSP(param1 IN testPkg.empCur, param2 OUT NUMBER)
FETCH param1 into param2;
// C#
using System;
using Oracle.DataAccess.Client;
using System.Data;
class InRefCursorParameterSample
  static void Main()
    OracleConnection conn = new OracleConnection
      ("User Id=scott; Password=tiger; Data Source=oracle");
    conn.Open(); // Open the connection to the database
    // Command text for getting the REF Cursor as OUT parameter
    String cmdTxt1 = "begin open :1 for select col1 from test; end;";
    // Command text to pass the REF Cursor as IN parameter
    String cmdTxt2 = "begin testSP (:1, :2); end;";
    // Create the command object for executing cmdTxt1 and cmdTxt2
    OracleCommand cmd = new OracleCommand(cmdTxt1, conn);
    // Bind the Ref cursor to the PL/SQL stored procedure
    OracleParameter outRefPrm = cmd.Parameters.Add("outRefPrm",
      OracleDbType.RefCursor, DBNull.Value, ParameterDirection.Output);
    cmd.ExecuteNonQuery(); // Execute the anonymous PL/SQL block
    // Reset the command object to execute another anonymous PL/SQL block
    cmd.CommandText = cmdTxt2;
    // REF Cursor obtained from previous execution is passed to this 
    // procedure as IN parameter
    OracleParameter inRefPrm = cmd.Parameters.Add("inRefPrm",
      OracleDbType.RefCursor, outRefPrm.Value, ParameterDirection.Input);
    // Bind another Number parameter to get the REF Cursor column value
    OracleParameter outNumPrm = cmd.Parameters.Add("outNumPrm",
      OracleDbType.Int32, DBNull.Value, ParameterDirection.Output);
    cmd.ExecuteNonQuery(); //Execute the stored procedure
    // Display the out parameter value
    Console.WriteLine("out parameter is: " + outNumPrm.Value.ToString());