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Incidental pancreatic cysts: Role of magnetic resonance imaging

Daniella F. Pinho; Neil M. Rofsky; Ivan Pedrosa

(Profiled Authors: Ivan Pedrosa; Neil M Rofsky)

Topics in Magnetic Resonance Imaging. 2014;23(2):73-84.


The widespread adoption of multidetector computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for evaluation of intraabdominal pathology has resulted to a steady increase in the number of incidentally discovered pancreatic cysts in clinical practice during the last decades. The differential diagnosis of these cysts is broad including pseudocysts, serous cystic neoplasms, mucinous cystic neoplasms, and intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms. The MRI has an important role both in the initial characterization of incidentally detected pancreatic cysts and the follow-up of these lesions and has become an integral part of the diagnostic algorithm for pancreatic cysts at many institutions. The inherent soft-tissue contrast of magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography provides the vehicle for providing a specific diagnosis in many pancreatic cysts. Furthermore, an MRI-based characterization of pancreatic cysts allows for selection of those cysts that are more likely to benefit from endoscopic ultrasound and fine-needle aspiration for analysis of the fluid contents. Moreover, small asymptomatic incidental pancreatic cysts without concerning MRI features such as internal septae and/or nodularity may be safely followed with serial imaging. The lack of risk associated to repeated exposure to ionizing radiation and its ability to characterize pancreatic cysts are strong arguments for selecting MRI as the preferred imaging modality for following up these lesions. However, the recommendations for imaging follow-up continue to evolve, and several of the proposed guidelines are reviewed in this manuscript. © 2014 Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

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