Pancreatic cysts are closed saclike pockets filled with fluid located on or in the pancreas. These cysts can be either benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). The pancreatic cysts are found incidentally when imaging testing and ultrasound of the abdomen is performed for other health conditions. Most of the cysts are asymptomatic as they do not cause any symptoms, however, when larger and expanding cysts compress the surrounding tissues, symptoms are seen. Pancreatic cysts also result from rare diseases, such as von Hippel-Lindau disease.
There are nearly 20 types of pancreatic cysts. The common types include:
Pancreatic cysts are usually asymptomatic or may produce mild to moderate symptoms. The common symptoms which occur after a pancreatitis attack include:
Some cysts may become infected due to which the patient develops fever, persistent and severe abdominal pain, weak and rapid heartbeat, decreased consciousness, and blood in vomiting. In such instances, the patient should be taken to the doctor immediately.
The exact cause of pancreatic cyst is still not known. Researchers believe that few cysts are associated with rare illness such as von Hippel-Lindau disease, which is a genetic disorder affecting the pancreas. Pseudocysts often result from pancreatitis which is often caused by alcoholism, injury to the abdomen, gallstones, and trauma.
Pancreatic cysts, if not treated on time may develop a certain complication like:
Pancreatic cysts are hard to diagnose as the symptoms resemble many other disease conditions. The medical history of the patient is first assessed and other diagnostic tests are recommended:
Pancreatic cysts are benign and usually do not require treatment. But if the symptoms are persistent, the patient may develop complications and hence certain treatment options are recommended.
Drainage of the cysts is done if they are more than 6 cm in size. An endoscope, equipped with a needle is passed through the mouth into your stomach and small intestine to drain the cyst.
This is recommended if the cysts are larger with a solid component and if the cysts are growing and causing pain. The whole of pancreatic cysts are removed, either via open surgery which or laparoscopic surgery. Open surgical procedures include:
Minimally invasive procedures include laparoscopy in which a surgeon inserts a thin, lighted tube through an incision in the abdominal wall and removes the cysts.
The risk of pancreatic cysts can be reduced by minimizing or avoiding alcohol intake. Alcohol intake may be directly responsible for pancreatitis and indirectly for the formation of pancreatic cysts. If the cysts are due to the formation of gall stones, gall bladder should be removed.
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