Pancreatic cystic neoplasms

South Med J. 2010 Jan;103(1):51-7. doi: 10.1097/SMJ.0b013e3181c38770.


Pancreatic cysts include inflammatory lesions, low-grade neoplasms, and malignant neoplasms. Cystic neoplasms may prompt investigation because of symptoms such as abdominal pain, distension, jaundice, or nausea, but they are usually incidentally discovered. In the older literature, pseudocysts related to acute and chronic pancreatitis accounted for the majority of pancreatic cysts, but it is difficult to differentiate pancreatic cystic neoplasms from pseudocysts even with high-resolution modalities including computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. Additionally, the more recent literature has shown that small pancreatic cystic lesions are relatively common as incidental findings on cross-sectional imaging examinations that are performed for other reasons, typically in older patients without prior episodes of pancreatitis; these are often low-grade mucinous lesions or occasionally epithelial cysts. Endoscopic ultrasound with fine-needle aspiration has emerged as a prime modality in delineating such cystic lesions. There has been an exponential increase in the more recent literature regarding pancreatic cystic lesions. The purpose of this review article is to provide a concise overview of these pancreatic cystic lesions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biopsy, Fine-Needle
  • Carcinoma, Neuroendocrine / diagnosis
  • Cystadenocarcinoma / diagnosis
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Endosonography
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatic Cyst / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatic Pseudocyst / diagnosis
  • Positron-Emission Tomography
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed