Cystic tumors of the pancreas: New clinical, radiologic, and pathologic observations in 67 patients

Andrew L. Warshaw, Carolyn C. Compton, Kent Lewandrowski, Gilda Cardenosa, Peter R. Mueller

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634 Scopus citations


Within a 12-year period we treated 67 patients (49 women, 18 men; mean age, 61 years) with cystic neoplasms of the pancreas, including 18 serous cystic adenomas, 15 benign mucinous cystic neoplasms, 27 mucinous cystadenocarcinomas, 3 papillary cystic tumors, 2 cystic islet cell tumors, and 2 cases of mucinous ductal ectasia. Mean tumor size was 6 cm (2 to 16 cm). In 39% the patients had no symptoms, and in 37% the lesions had been misdiagnosed as a pseudocyst. Computed tomography was useful for detection, for distinguishing the microcystic subgroup of serous cystadenoma, and for showing rim calcification (all 7 cases were malignant) but was not reliable for distinguishing neoplasm from pseudocyst, serous from mucinous tumors, or benign from malignant. Arteriography showed hypervascularity in 4 of 10 serous adenomas, 3 of 11 mucinous carcinomas, and 1 of 1 papillary cystic tumors. Endoscopic pancreatography showed no communication with the cyst cavity in 37 of 37 cases of cystic neoplasms but opacified the ectatic ducts in 2 of 2 cases of mucinous ductal ectasia. Stenosis or obstruction of the pancreatic duct indicated cancer. The tumor was resected by distal pancreatectomy in 25 patients, by proximal resection in 29, and by total pancreatectomy in one, with no operative deaths. Forty-four per cent of the tumors were malignant. In 10 cases the tumor was unresectable because of local extension or distant metastases, and those patients died at a mean of 4 months. Seventy-five per cent of those resected for cure are alive without evident recurrence. Because the epithelial lining of the tumor was partially (5% to 98%) absent in 40% to 72% of cases of the major tumor types, and the mucinous component comprised only about 65% of mucinous cystadenoma lining, misdiagnoses on frozen and even permanent sections were made. Mitoses and histologic solid growth correlated with malignancy. Neuroendocrine elements were seen in 87% of benign and 47% of malignant mucinous tumors. It is recommended that the terms macrocystic and microcystic be abandoned in favor of the histologic designations serous and mucinous. Incomplete examination of the cyst wall can be misleading, however. It is suggested that mucinous ductal ectasia be recognized separately from cystic tumors and that all of these lesions be resected, with the possible exception of asymptomatic confirmed serous cystadenomas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)432-443
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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