Management and outcomes of pancreatic cystic lesions

Dig Liver Dis. 2008 Nov;40(11):854-9. doi: 10.1016/j.dld.2008.03.023. Epub 2008 May 27.


The management of pancreatic cystic lesions offers a challenge to clinicians. Mucinous cystic lesions pose a low risk of the development of neoplasia that must be taken into account in long-term management. Although the natural history has not been well defined, it is likely that malignant change in the mucinous epithelium takes place over years, very similar to what is observed with Barrett's esophagus. The traditional therapy of mucinous cystic lesions has been surgical resection. Lesions in the head of the pancreas will require a Whipple resection whereas tail lesions are managed with a distal pancreatectomy and splenectomy. In patients at high risk for surgical resection, the risk/benefit ratio may be excessively high, not supporting the use of resection therapy. Ethanol ablation therapy has been thoroughly studied in hepatic, renal, and thyroid cysts. Epithelial ablation with ethanol appears to be highly effective and relatively safe. Recently, ethanol ablation has been evaluated in pancreatic cystic neoplasms. In macrocystic lesions between 1 and 5 cm, ethanol lavage will result in epithelial ablation and cyst resolution in a high percentage of patients. Pancreatitis is rarely observed clinically and is not present in resection specimens. A randomised prospective clinical trial is currently underway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Catheter Ablation / methods*
  • Cystadenoma, Mucinous / mortality
  • Cystadenoma, Mucinous / pathology
  • Cystadenoma, Mucinous / surgery*
  • Endosonography / methods
  • Ethanol / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Male
  • Pancreatectomy / methods
  • Pancreatic Cyst / mortality
  • Pancreatic Cyst / pathology
  • Pancreatic Cyst / surgery*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / mortality
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Assessment
  • Survival Rate
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Ethanol