Pancreatic cystic neoplasms: the role and sensitivity of needle aspiration and biopsy

S K Carlson, C D Johnson, K R Brandt, K P Batts, D R Salomao
Abdominal Imaging 1998, 23 (4): 387-93

BACKGROUND: The proper evaluation of patients with pancreatic cystic neoplasms remains controversial. Although computed tomography (CT) and sonography can differentiate the majority of these tumors, needle aspiration and biopsy can be helpful in selected patients. The purpose of this study was to (1) determine the sensitivity of needle aspiration and biopsy of cystic pancreatic neoplasms, (2) assess the complications after needle aspiration and biopsy, and (3) assess the indications for needle aspiration and biopsy by using the radiographic appearance as a guide.

METHODS: The histories, imaging studies, and pathologic specimens of 18 patients with serous cystadenoma (10 patients) or mucinous cystic tumor (eight patients) of the pancreas who also underwent CT-guided (n = 16), sonographically guided (n = 3), or intraoperative (n = 4) needle biopsy (n = 23 total biopsies) between 1976 and 1996 were retrospectively reviewed.

RESULTS: The histologic diagnosis of the serous subtype was made with needle aspiration and biopsy in five of 10 patients with serous cystadenoma. The histologic diagnosis of the mucinous subtype was made with needle aspiration and biopsy in six of eight patients with mucinous cystic neoplasms. Of the 23 biopsies performed, one patient experienced significant intraperitoneal hemorrhage. Indications for needle biopsy include an atypical cystic mass on diagnostic imaging studies, confirmation of a serous cystadenoma before observation, and confirmation of mucinous cystadenocarcinoma in patients with nonresectable disease.

CONCLUSION: Needle biopsy and aspiration is a helpful and safe procedure to aid in the diagnosis of cystic pancreatic neoplasms before surgery.

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