Diagnostic evaluation of cystic pancreatic lesions

B. C. Visser, V. R. Muthusamy, B. M. Yeh, F. V. Coakley, L. W. Way

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background. Cystic pancreatic neoplasms (CPNs) present a unique challenge in preoperative diagnosis. We investigated the accuracy of diagnostic methods for CPN. Material and methods. This retrospective cases series includes 70 patients who underwent surgery at a university hospital for presumed CPNs between 1997 and 2003, and for whom a definitive diagnosis was established. Variables examined included symptoms, preoperative work-up (including endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP) in 22 cases and endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) in 12), and operative and pathological findings. Preoperative computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans (n=50 patients; CT=48; MRI=13) were independently reviewed by two blinded GI radiologists. Results. The final histopathologic diagnoses were mucinous cystic neoplasm (n=13), mucinous cystadenocarcinoma (10), serous cystadenoma (11), IPMN (14), simple cyst (3), cystic neuroendocrine tumor (5), pseudocyst (4), and other (10). Overall, 25 of 70 were malignant (37%), 21 premalignant (30%), and 24 benign (34%). The attending surgeon's preoperative diagnosis was correct in 31% of cases, incorrect in 29%, non-specific "cystic tumor" in 27%, and "pseuodcyst vs. neoplasm" in 11%. Eight had been previously managed as pseudocysts, and 3 pseudocysts were excised as presumed CPN. In review of the CT and MRI, a multivariate analysis of the morphologic features did not identify predictors of specific pathologic diagnoses. Both radiologists were accurate with their preferred (no. 1) diagnosis in <50% of cases. MRI demonstrated no additional utility beyond CT. Conclusions. The diagnosis of CPN remains challenging. Cross-sectional imaging methods do not reliably give an accurate preoperative diagnosis. Surgeons should continue to err on the side of resection.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)63-69
Number of pages7
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Cystadenocarcinoma
  • Cystadenoma
  • Cystic
  • Magnetic resonance (MR)
  • Mucinous
  • Neoplasm
  • Pancreas
  • Serous

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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