Ultrasonography is the first imaging modality used in the evaluation of the pancreas due to its relatively low cost, wide availability, and non-invasiveness. A Pancreas Ultrasound Scan of your abdomen will show the pancreas and the surrounding area, including your liver. It can show if a tumor is a present and its size. You will lie on your back for the procedure. The pancreas is a yellowish-pink lobulated gland, located behind the stomach from the duodenum to the spleen. Its main function is to release enzymes into the intestine to aid the digestion of food.
Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is a condition characterized by the inflammation of the pancreas. It can either be acute or chronic.
- Acute pancreatitis is a sudden inflammation of the pancreas that usually lasts for a short time. The main causes are gallstones and alcoholism accounting for 80%. However, other causes include medication, infection, and can also be hereditary. Hereditary pancreatitis usually begins in childhood but may not be diagnosed for several years. Patients present with severe epigastric pain, abdominal distention, nausea, or vomiting.
- Chronic pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas that gradually worsens over time leading to permanent damage. The cause of chronic pancreatitis is mainly due by alcoholism and can also be caused by a blocked pancreatic duct. Symptoms include abdominal pain particularly postprandial and fatty stools due to malabsorption.
Other complications include biliary obstruction and portal and splenic vein thrombosis. Thrombosis of the portal vein can be caused by fibrosis and inflammation as well as the compression by a pseudocyst.
Fatty Pancreas: Fatty pancreas is caused by the accumulation of fat in the pancreas. It is usually found incidentally. Causes of fatty pancreas include consumption of alcohol, viral infections, and metabolic syndrome. Fatty infiltration of the pancreas can develop into pancreatitis, diabetes and may even be a risk factor for pancreatic cancer.
Pseudocysts: Pseudocysts are collections of fluid in the pancreas, and they are more commonly found in patients and are usually a complication of chronic pancreatitis. They occur when the pancreatic duct becomes damaged, therefore pancreatic juice leaks and accumulates creating a cyst. They are mostly observed in patients with alcoholism. The majority of pseudocysts are found in the head of the pancreas. Patients mainly present with abdominal pain and bloating.
Pancreatic carcinoma: Pancreatic carcinoma is the second most common tumor of the digestive system. The majority of tumors are adenocarcinomas, and they are located within the pancreatic head therefore, patients present with jaundice because the CBD is obstructed. Other symptoms found in patients include anorexia, epigastric pain, and weight loss. Ultrasound plays a key role in the diagnosis of pancreatic carcinoma where tumors that measure less than 10mm are expected to have a good prognosis.