Neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas: spectrum of appearances on MRI

J Magn Reson Imaging. 2000 Feb;11(2):141-8. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1522-2586(200002)11:2<141::aid-jmri10>;2-u.


We reviewed our 8.5 year experience with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in the demonstration of neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas using precontrast fat-suppressed T1-weighted, fat-suppressed T2-weighted, and serial post-gadolinium T1-weighted images, to describe the spectrum of appearances of these tumors. All MR examinations of patients with histologically proven neuroendocrine tumors were retrospectively reviewed. Histological type, tumor location, tumor diameter, signal intensity on precontrast images, enhancement patterns, and presence and appearance of metastases were determined. Twenty-two patients had histologically proved neuroendocrine tumors detected by MRI over the 8.5 year period. Histological types were gastrinoma (n = 8), insulinoma (n = 3), glucagonoma (n = 2), somatostatinoma (n = 1), VIPoma (n = 1), ACTHoma (n = 1), carcinoid (n = 1), and five untyped tumors. Primary tumors ranged in diameter from 1 to 6.2 cm. There was one histopathology-proven false-positive neuroendocrine tumor. The positive predictive value for MRI in the detection of these tumors was 96%. The most common appearance on precontrast images was low signal intensity on T1-weighted images and high signal intensity on T2-weighted images, which was observed in tumors in 18 of 22 patients. Moderate or intense early enhancement of all or portions of the primary tumors was observed in tumors in 19 of 22 patients either as uniform homogeneous, ring, or diffuse heterogeneous enhancement. Enhancement was minimal on these images in the other three patients. Gastrinomas enhanced in a ring pattern in 7 of 8 patients whereas the majority (9 of 11 patients) of noninsulinoma-nongastrinoma and untyped tumors enhanced in a diffuse heterogeneous fashion. Liver metastases were present in 13/22 patients including 3/8 with gastrinoma and 9/11 with noninsulinoma-nongastrinoma tumors. Most neuroendocrine tumors of the pancreas are low signal intensity on fat-suppressed T1-weighted images and moderately high in signal intensity on fat-suppressed T2-weighted images, although variations do exist. Tumors most often enhance in an early moderately intense fashion. Gastrinomas are often different in appearance than other neuroendocrine tumors in that they usually enhance in a ring fashion whereas nongastrinoma-noninsulinoma tumors usually enhance in a heterogeneous fashion.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging* / methods
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroendocrine Tumors / pathology*
  • Pancreas / pathology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Contrast Media