How are pancreatic cysts and pseudocysts diagnosed?

Pancreatic pseudocysts can be hard to diagnose because the symptoms can be similar to various other diseases. Since the pancreas is located deep inside the abdominal cavity, cross-sectional imaging is often used to locate and diagnose pancreatic cysts and pseudocysts.

Testing may include the following:

  • Transabdominal US (ultrasound), which uses sound waves to detect a pancreatic pseudocyst, or gallstones that could potentially cause a pseudocyst.
  • Abdominal CT (computed tomography) scan, which usually provides all the diagnostic information necessary, and shows more detailed surrounding anatomy and pathology information than ultrasound does.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) and MRCP (magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography), though not typically used, provide sharper imaging of fluids and debris in pseudocysts than CT scans do.
  • EUS (endoscopic ultrasound) is usually a secondary test (following US, CT or MRI) to further evaluate a pancreatic cyst and/or to distinguish a pancreatic pseudocyst from other types of cystic lesions. Analysis of fluid obtained by the cyst via a fine needle is done to differentiate the types of cysts and pseudocysts.
  • ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) enables the doctor to view the structure of the common bile duct, other bile ducts and the pancreatic duct.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/29/2014.

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