JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Delayed Growth in Incidental Pancreatic Cysts: Are the Current American College of Radiology Recommendations for Follow-up Appropriate?

Radiology 2016 March
PURPOSE: To evaluate growth kinetics of asymptomatic small (<2 cm) incidental pancreatic cysts and to assess potential implications of these in the context of current American College of Radiology recommendations.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: This institutional review board-approved HIPAA-compliant retrospective study with waiver of informed consent included patients with asymptomatic small incidental pancreatic cysts (diameter, 5-20 mm) with two or more magnetic resonance (MR) examinations performed at least 6 months apart at a tertiary institution. The largest cyst dimension was measured on T2-weighted single-shot fast spin-echo images by one of six radiologists (1-3 years of experience) who were trained to measure pancreatic cysts in a similar manner. All analysis was conducted at the patient level by choosing the cyst that exhibited the greatest growth over the follow-up period in each patient. Fisher exact, χ(2), and Kruskal-Wallis tests and analysis of variance were used to test correlation between cyst characteristics and growth.

RESULTS: A total of 259 patients (mean age, 65 years ± 11 [standard deviation], male-to-female ratio, 42:58) with 370 asymptomatic small incidental pancreatic cysts were included. At presentation, median cyst size was 9.4 mm (interquartile range [IQR], 7.0-12.2 mm), and 64 patients (25%; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 20, 30) had septations. The median imaging follow-up period was 2.2 years (IQR, 1.2-3.9 years; range, 0.5-11.0 years), with a median of three MR examinations (IQR, two to four examinations) per patient. In 171 (66%; 95% CI: 60, 72) of the 259 patients, cysts remained stable; in 18 (7%; 95% CI: 4, 11), cysts shrank; and in 70 (27%; 95% CI: 22, 33), cysts grew (median total growth and median annual growth of 4.8 mm and 2.3 mm/y, respectively). Age, cyst size, and cyst septation at presentation were not predictive of growth. Overall, 29 (11%), 16 (6%), and four (1.5%) of the cysts increased in size after 1, 2, and 3 years of initial stability, respectively. Of the 18 patients who underwent pancreatic surgery, only one patient with an intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm had high-grade dysplasia. One patient developed pancreatic adenocarcinoma remotely at the location of the pancreatic cyst diagnosed 11 months prior.

CONCLUSION: In the majority of patients, asymptomatic small incidental pancreatic cysts remained stable during a median follow-up period of 2.2 years; however, in 27% of patients, cysts increased in size over time, with 11% growing after an initial 1-year period of stability. Current American College of Radiology recommendations to discontinue imaging follow-up after 1 year of stability may need to be reevaluated.

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