Using Multidetector Row Computed Tomography to Diagnose and Stage Pancreatic Carcinoma: the Problems and the Possibilities

The sensitivity of computed tomography (CT) in the diagnosis of pancreatic neoplasms and accurate tumor staging has significantly been improved by the use of thin-section multidetector row CT techniques. Greater table speed, improved tube cooling, high resolution imaging and the possibility of isotropic voxels have led to optimal multiplanar reconstruction in any arbitrary plane and particularly along the pancreatic duct and peripancreatic vessels, significantly improving the detection of small pancreatic tumors and surgical resectability where imaging modalities have so far yielded disappointing results. Nonetheless, while multi-detector row CT has greatly enhanced the imaging capabilities of CT, early diagnosis is practically impossible to achieve, since the tumor remains asymptomatic until the surrounding structures are involved. Furthermore, even when treated with radical surgery, the incidence of recurrence is high and the prognosis of pancreatic carcinoma still remains extremely poor and has not changed over the past years. In this article, the recent technical developments of multidetector row CT in diagnosing pancreatic neoplasms and staging are considered, with special emphasis on multi-detector row CT angiography techniques and curved planar reformations. Some remaining challenging problems such as the pre-operative identification and characterization of small hepatic lesions and detection of omental and peritoneal metastasis, the diagnosis of small isoattenuating pancreatic adenocarcinomas and promising strategies to differentiate between pancreatic adenocarcinoma and chronic inflammatory changes are also presented.

Author(s): Mariano Scaglione, Antonio Pinto, Stefania Romano, Michele Scialpi, Luca Volterrani, Antonio Rotondo, Luigia Romano

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