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Evolution of incidental branch-duct intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms of the pancreas: A study with magnetic resonance imaging cholangiopancreatography.

AIM: To investigate the type and timing of evolution of incidentally found branch-duct intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (bd-IPMN) of the pancreas addressed to magnetic resonance imaging cholangiopancreatography (MRCP) follow-up.

METHODS: We retrospectively evaluated 72 patients who underwent, over the period 2006-2016, a total of 318 MRCPs (mean 4.4) to follow-up incidental, presumed bd-IPMN without signs of malignancy, found or confirmed at a baseline MRCP examination. Median follow-up time was 48.5 mo (range 13-95 mo). MRCPs were acquired on 1.5T and/or 3.0T systems using 2D and/or 3D technique. Image analysis assessed the rates of occurrence over the follow-up of the following outcomes: (1) imaging evolution, defined as any change in cysts number and/or size and/or appearance; and (2) alert findings, defined as worrisome features and/or high risk stigmata ( e.g ., thick septa, parietal thickening, mural nodules and involvement of the main pancreatic duct). Time to outcomes was described with the Kaplan-Meir approach. Cox regression model was used to investigate clinical or initial MRCP findings predicting cysts changes.

RESULTS: We found a total of 343 cysts (per-patient mean 5.1) with average size of 8.5 mm (range 5-25 mm). Imaging evolution was observed in 32/72 patients (44.4%; 95%CI: 32-9-56.6), involving 47/343 cysts (13.7%). There was a main trend towards small (< 10 mm) increase and/or decrease of cysts size at a median time of 22.5 mo. Alert findings developed in 6/72 patients (8.3%; 95%CI: 3.4-17.9) over a wide interval of time (13-63 mo). No malignancy was found on endoscopic ultrasound with fine-needle aspiration (5/6 cases) or surgery (1/6 cases). No clinical or initial MRCP features were significantly associated with changes in bd-IPMN appearance ( P > 0.01).

CONCLUSION: Changes in MRCP appearance of incidental bd-IPNM were frequent over the follow-up (44.4%), with relatively rare (8.3%) occurrence of non-malignant alert findings that prompted further diagnostic steps. Changes occurred at a wide interval of time and were unpredictable, suggesting that imaging follow-up should be not discontinued, though MRCPs might be considerably delayed without a significant risk of missing malignancy.

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