Pancreatic Cysts

Pancreatic cysts are small, fluid-filled sacs that form in the pancreas. The majority of pancreatic cysts are benign pseudocysts which are a common complication of pancreatitis. Other types of pancreatic cysts are serous cystadenoma (SCA) cysts, which are typically benign. Intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) cysts and mucinous cystic neoplasm (MCN) cysts have the potential to develop into pancreatic cancer. Most pancreatic cysts are identified during diagnostic imaging for another condition. 

For patients who require cyst removal, general and gastrointestinal surgeons at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) offer a range of advanced minimally invasive surgery approaches — such as robotic surgery — for cyst removal. Pancreatic specialists at BWH, including surgeons and gastroenterologists, collaborate to determine the best treatment for patients with complex pancreatic cysts. 

As the surgical team for the Pancreas and Biliary Tumor Center at Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center, we partner with pancreas specialists to determine the best course of treatment for pancreatic cysts that are cancerous.

Pancreatic Cysts Topics

Diagnosis of Pancreatic Cysts

General and gastrointestinal surgeons at BWH offer a range of procedures for diagnosing pancreatic cysts:

Treatment for Pancreatic Cysts

Surgical Treatment

Brigham and Women’s Hospital general and gastrointestinal surgeons offer extensive expertise in the most advanced minimally invasive procedures for pancreatic cysts:

  • Surgical drainage of the cyst(s)
  • Endoscopic drainage of the cyst using an endoscope
  • Percutaneous (through the skin) drainage of the cyst using a needle (guided by a CT scan)
  • Robotic distal pancreatectomy removes benign and malignant cysts and tumors in the body or the tail of the pancreas using the da Vinci ® Surgical System.
  • Laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy is surgery to remove the body and tail of the pancreas. The spleen may also be removed.
  • Pancreaticoduodenectomy is a procedure in which the head of the pancreas, the gallbladder, nearby lymph nodes and part of the stomach, small intestine, and bile duct are surgically removed. Also called the Whipple procedure.
  • Enucleation, performed using an open or laparoscopic surgical approach, removes only the tumor cells, leaving the pancreas intact. It is appropriate for small tumors.

Read this article in Oncology Advances about a BWH robotic technique for patients with pancreatic cysts and tumors.

Watch this video of Thomas Clancy, MD, a pancreatic and hepatobiliary surgeon in the Division of Surgical Oncology, demonstrating a distal pancreatectomy using the Da Vinci robotic surgical system.

Non-Surgical Treatment

  • Close monitoring by scans (to determine any change in size)
What You Should Expect

You will receive a thorough diagnostic examination to evaluate if you have pancreatic cysts and determine what course of treatment is needed. Careful monitoring and the involvement of an experienced general and gastrointestinal surgeon are important to the successful outcome for patients with pancreas conditions.

If you are having surgery or a procedure, you will likely be scheduled for a visit to the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation for pre-operative information and tests.

The day of surgery, you will be taken care of in the operating room by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in pancreatic cyst surgery. After surgery, you will go to the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

Learn more about your hospital stay and returning home.

Multidisciplinary Care

Brigham and Women’s Hospital provides a multidisciplinary approach to patient care, collaborating with colleagues who have extensive experience in diagnosing and treating pancreatic cysts. In addition, patients have full access to BWH’s world-renowned academic medical community with its diverse specialists and state-of-the-art facilities.

Pancreatic Surgery Appointments and Locations

Contact one of our pancreatic surgeons in the list at the top of the page to make an appointment.

Pancreatic Surgery Locations

Resources

Visit the Kessler Health Education Library in the Bretholtz Center for Patients and Families to access computers and knowledgeable staff.

Visit the Weiner Center for Preoperative Evaluation.

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