Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Prospective study of ultrasonography in chronic pancreatic disease.

Br Med J 1979; 1 doi: (Published 20 January 1979) Cite this as: Br Med J 1979;1:162
  1. W R Lees,
  2. A G Vallon,
  3. M E Denyer,
  4. S P Vahl,
  5. P B Cotton


    Grey-scale ultrasonography was used in 212 unselected patients in whom the presence or absence of pancreatic disease was subsequently confirmed by other means. Ultrasonographic criteria were established in the first 92 patients and by reference to previous experience. The remaining 120 patients were studied prospectively. The accuracy and clinical impact of the ultrasonographic diagnosis were judged alongside a standard clinical assessment. Clinical diagnoses were tentative and inaccurate. Ultrasound failed in three cases; otherwise it detected all the 33 patients with chronic pancreatic disease and correctly distinguished cancer from chronic pancreatitis. The ultrasonographic diagnosis of a normal pancreas was always correct, but four false-positive diagnoses were made in patients subsequently judged to have no pancreatic disease. Ultrasonography gave more accurate or more confident and accurate information than the clinical assessment in 57 of the 98 patients studied as problems in diagnosis. With this degree of accuracy ultrasonography should be the first imaging investigation in patients suspected of suffering from pancreatic disease. In our gastrointestinal unit the combination of grey-scale ultrasonography with techniques designed to outline the duct systems (such as endoscopic pancreatography) provides precise diagnosis and documentation of pancreatic disease.