The pancreas is a dual functioning gland of the digestive system made up of two types of cells: one produces digestive juices and the other releases hormones to regulate blood sugar levels. Pancreatic cysts are sac-like pockets of fluid or semisolid matter made up of damaged tissue or debris located on or within the pancreas. They can be noncancerous (pseudo cysts) or cancerous (malignant). The cause of pancreatic cysts is often not very clear. Some cysts can result from a rare genetic disorder known as von Hippel-Lindau disease.
Pancreatic cysts can be asymptomatic or produce moderate to severe symptoms such as persistent and severe abdominal or back pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting. Complications of pancreatic cysts include infection, rupture of the pseudocyst or hemorrhage (bleeding) and high blood pressure of the splenic or portal vein.
Pancreatic cysts are diagnosed with imaging tests such as ultrasound, CT scan of the abdomen, MRI, magnetic resonance cholangiopancreatography (MRCP), endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) and endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). Most often, pseudocysts resolve without the need for treatment. However, if your symptoms are severe and the cysts are growing larger, your doctor may recommend drainage of the cysts. The cysts may be drained through an endoscopy procedure where a long thin tube with a needle is inserted to drain the cyst, percutaneous catheter drainage (a hollow tube is inserted into the body) or surgical drainage through open (long incision is made on the abdomen) or laparoscopic (3 to 4 small incisions are made on the abdomen) techniques.