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 "pseudocyst 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.
Keywords: Computed tomography (CT); cystadenocarcinoma; cystadenoma; cystic; magnetic resonance (MR); mucinous; neoplasm; pancreas; serous.