Incidental pancreatic cysts: Do we really know what we are watching?

Camilo Correa-Gallego, Cristina R. Ferrone, Sarah P. Thayer, Jennifer A. Wargo, Andrew L. Warshaw, Carlos Fernández-Del Castillo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Scopus citations


Background: Most cystic neoplasms of the pancreas (CNPs) are incidentally discovered. Their management continues to be debated and preoperative diagnosis is often inaccurate. Methods: Retrospective review of 330 patients with incidentally discovered CNPs. Preoperative and final histological diagnoses were correlated. Results: 41% (136/330) of patients were operated on at diagnosis. 50 patients underwent resection for a presumed branch-duct (Bd) intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN), which was confirmed in only 64% (32/50); of the remaining patients, 20% had main-duct involvement. Mucinous cystic neoplasm was the preoperative diagnosis in 30/136 patients, histologic examination was confirmatory in only 60% (18/30). Most lesions presumed to be main-duct or combined IPMNs or serous cystadenomas were confirmed as such after resection (15/16 and 11/12, respectively). Multifocality was not only associated with Bd-IPMN, and 5% of all cysts were non-neoplastic. Overall, in only 68% of cases did the preoperative and histological diagnoses match. Conclusions: In an experienced, high-volume center, preoperative diagnosis was incorrect in one-third of incidentally discovered CNPs who underwent resection. Of particular concern, 20% of presumed Bd-IPMN had a main-duct component. Conversely, 5% of resected cysts were not even neoplastic. Clearly, better diagnostic methods are needed to aid in formulating appropriate treatment strategies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)144-150
Number of pages7
Issue number2-3
StatePublished - Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Branch-duct IPMNs
  • Cystic neoplasms
  • Incidental pancreatic cysts
  • Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms
  • Main-duct IPMNs
  • Mucinous cystic neoplasms
  • Pancreas, cystic neoplasms
  • Pancreatic cysts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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