Background: The differentiation between cancer and benign disease in the pancreatic head is difficult. The aim of this study was to examine common features in a group of patients that had undergone pancreatoduodenectomy for a benign, inflammatory lesion misdiagnosed as pancreatic head cancer.
Methods: Among 220 pancreatoduodenectomies performed on the suspiscion of pancreatic head cancer, an inflammatory lesion in the pancreas or distal common bile duct was diagnosed in 14 patients (6%). Of these patients, all preoperative clinical information and radiologic images (ultrasound, endoscopic retrograde cholangio-pancreaticography [ERCP]) were critically reassessed. For each examination, the suspicion of cancer was scored on a 0/+/++ scale.
Results: Clinical presentation (pain, weight loss, jaundice) raised a suspicion of cancer in 12 patients. On ultrasound, a tumor (mean size: 2.8 cm) was found in the pancreatic head in 13 patients; 12 of 14 ultrasound examinations raised a suspicion of cancer. ERCP showed a distal common bile duct stenosis (length: 1 to 4 cm), stenosis of the pancreatic duct (length: 1 to 5 cm), or a "double duct" stenosis, suspicious for cancer in 13 evaluable patients. The overall index of suspicion was + in seven patients and ++ in seven patients, confirming the initial interpretation of preoperative data.
Conclusion: When undertaking pancreatoduodenectomy for a suspicious lesion in the pancreatic head, it is necessary to expect at least a 5% chance of resecting a benign, inflammatory lesion masquerading as cancer.