Management of Pancreatic Cystic Lesions

Dig Surg. 2020;37(1):1-9. doi: 10.1159/000496509. Epub 2019 Jan 11.


Background: The prevalence of undefined pancreatic cystic neoplasms (PCNs) is high in the general population, increasing with patient age. PCNs account for different biological entities with different potential for malignant transformation. The clinician must balance his or her practice between the risk of surgical overtreatment and the error of keeping a malignant lesion under surveillance.

Methods: We review and discuss the clinical management of PCNs. Specifically, we analyze the main features of PCNs from the surgeon's point of view, as they present in the outpatient clinic. We also review the different consensus guidelines, address recent controversies in the literature, and present the current clinical practice at 4 different European Centers for pancreatic surgery.

Results: The main features of PCNs were analyzed from the surgeon's point of view as they present in the outpatient clinic. All aspects of surgical management were discussed, from indications for surgery to intraoperative management and surveillance strategies.

Conclusions: Management of PCNs requires a selective approach with the aim of minimizing clinically relevant diagnostic mistakes. Through the evaluation of clinical and radiological features of a PCN, the surgeon can elaborate on a diagnostic hypothesis and assess malignancy risk, but the final decision should be tailored to the individual patient's need.

Keywords: Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm; Pancreatic cyst; Pancreatic cystic lesions; Pancreatic cystic neoplasms; Surgical management.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Pancreas / pathology
  • Pancreas / surgery*
  • Pancreatectomy
  • Pancreatic Cyst / classification
  • Pancreatic Cyst / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Cyst / surgery*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / classification
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / surgery*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Precancerous Conditions / classification
  • Precancerous Conditions / diagnosis
  • Precancerous Conditions / surgery*