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Radiology. 2011 May;259(2):442-52. doi: 10.1148/radiol.11101133. Epub 2011 Mar 15.

Small (≤ 20 mm) pancreatic adenocarcinomas: analysis of enhancement patterns and secondary signs with multiphasic multidetector CT.

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Department of Radiology, Seoul National University College of Medicine, 28 Yongon-dong, Chongno-gu, Seoul 110-744, Korea.



To evaluate the enhancement patterns, prevalence of secondary signs, and histopathologic features of 20-mm-diameter or smaller pancreatic cancers seen on multiphasic multidetector computed tomographic (CT) images.


This retrospective study was approved by the institutional review board; the requirement for informed consent was waived. From January 2002 through September 2009, the authors reviewed the clinical and imaging data of 130 consecutive patients (76 men, 54 women; mean age, 64.1 years; age range, 28-82 years) who had surgically proven 30-mm-diameter or smaller pancreatic cancers and underwent preoperative multidetector CT and 33 consecutive patients (17 men, 16 women; mean age, 65.1 years; age range, 48-84 years) who had histopathologically proven pancreatic cancer and underwent incidental multidetector CT before the diagnosis was rendered. Only pancreatic phase CT was performed in two patients, and only hepatic venous phase CT was performed in nine patients. Two radiologists in consensus classified the tumor attenuation as hyper-, iso-, or hypoattenuation during the pancreatic and hepatic venous phases. Accompanying secondary signs, temporal changes in tumor attenuation, and histopathologic findings also were analyzed. The Fisher exact test, χ(2) test, generalized estimating equation, and Student t test were used to compare the variables.


Seventy tumors were 20 mm or smaller, and 93 were 21-30 mm. Isoattenuating pancreatic cancers were more commonly observed among the 20-mm or smaller tumors (16 of 59, 27%) than among the 21-30-mm tumors (12 of 93, 13%) (P = .033). They were also more common among well-differentiated tumors (seven of 12, 58%) than among moderately differentiated (20 of 124, 16%) and poorly differentiated (one of 10, 10%) tumors (P = .001). The prevalence of secondary signs differed significantly according to tumor size (53 [76%] of 70 ≤20-mm tumors vs 92 [99%] of 93 21-30-mm tumors) (P < .001). The prevalence of secondary signs was high among isoattenuating pancreatic cancers (14 [88%] of 16 ≤20-mm tumors vs all 12 [100%] 21-30-mm tumors). Most of the isoattenuating tumors seen at prediagnostic CT were hypoattenuating after 6 months (100% [four of four] during pancreatic phase, 71% [five of seven] during hepatic venous phase).


The prevalence of isoattenuating pancreatic cancers differed significantly according to tumor size and cellular differentiation. Most small isoattenuating pancreatic cancers showed secondary signs.


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