Autoimmune pancreatitis: multidetector-row computed tomography (MDCT) and magnetic resonance (MR) findings in the Italian experience

Radiol Med. 2014 Aug;119(8):558-71. doi: 10.1007/s11547-013-0373-9. Epub 2014 Mar 18.


Multidetector-row computed tomography (MDCT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging are currently the most frequently performed imaging modalities for the study of pancreatic disease. In cases of suspected autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP), a dynamic quadriphasic (precontrast, contrast-enhanced pancreatic, venous and late phases) study is recommended in both techniques. In the diffuse form of autoimmune pancreatitis (DAIP), the pancreatic parenchyma shows diffuse enlargement and appears, during the MDCT and MR contrast-enhanced pancreatic phase, diffusely hypodense and hypointense, respectively, compared to the spleen because of lymphoplasmacytic infiltration and pancreatic fibrosis. During the venous phase of MDCT and MR imaging, the parenchyma appears hyperdense and hyperintense, respectively, in comparison to the pancreatic phase. In the delayed phase of both imaging modalities, it shows retention of contrast media. A "capsule-like rim" may be recognised as a peripancreatic MDCT hyperdense and MR hypointense halo in the T2-weighted images, compared to the parenchyma. DAIP must be differentiated from non-necrotizing acute pancreatitis (NNAP) and lymphoma since both diseases show diffuse enlargement of the pancreatic parenchyma. The differential diagnosis is clinically difficult, and dynamic contrast-enhanced MDCT has an important role. In the focal form of autoimmune pancreatitis (FAIP), the parenchyma shows segmental enlargement involving the head, the body-tail or the tail, with the same contrast pattern as the diffuse form on both modalities. FAIP needs to be differentiated from pancreatic adenocarcinoma to avoid unnecessary surgical procedures, since both diseases have similar clinical and imaging presentation. The differential diagnosis is clinically difficult, and dynamic contrast-enhanced MDCT and MR imaging both have an important role. MR cholangiopancreatography helps in the differential diagnosis. Furthermore, MDCT and MR imaging can identify the extrapancreatic manifestations of AIP, most commonly biliary, renal and retroperitoneal. Finally, in all cases of uncertain diagnosis, MDCT and/or MR follow-up after short-term treatment (2-3 weeks) with high-dose steroids can identify a significant reduction in size of the pancreatic parenchyma and, in FAIP, normalisation of the calibre of the upstream main pancreatic duct.

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Multidetector Computed Tomography*
  • Multimodal Imaging*
  • Pancreatitis / diagnosis*
  • Pancreatitis / immunology*