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THE PANCREAS. Introduction/General Information A. Located in epigastric & left hypochondriac regions B. Dimensions: 1. 5 - 6” length x 2. 1-1/2” width x 3. 1/2 - 1” thick C. Lies retroperitoneally at ~T-12/L-1 to L-3. The Pancreas in situ.

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Introduction/General Information

  • A. Located in epigastric & left hypochondriac regions
  • B. Dimensions:
  • 1. 5 - 6” length x
  • 2. 1-1/2” width x
  • 3. 1/2 - 1” thick
  • C. Lies retroperitoneally at ~T-12/L-1 to L-3
the pancreas in situ
The Pancreas in situ

Right lobe of liver

Falciform ligament






Pancreas, Introduction, continued …

D. Head fills concavity of duodenum

E. Body crosses left kidney

F. Tail reaches hilus of the spleen

G.Related anteriorly to transverse colon

pancreas in situ
Pancreas in situ


Head of Pancreas


Pancreas, Introduction, continued …

H. Aorta, IVC lie posterior

I. Uncinate process:

a. Lies posterior to SMA and SMV

b. Lies anterior to aorta

J. Neck lies anterior to SMV, with pylorus just above


Introduction, continued

L. Body related posteriorly to left crus, left adrenal, left renal vein, and splenic vein

Celiac Axis (trunk, artery) lies superior to body

ii detailed anatomy
II. Detailed Anatomy

A. Landmark structures

1. Splenic Artery:

a. Branch of celiac trunk

b. passes right to left

c. Course is along upper margin of body and tail


Detailed Anatomy, con’t…

2. Hepatic Artery:

a. Branch of celiac trunk

b. courses left to right

c. along upper margin of neck and head

3. Superior Mesenteric Artery: at its origin from aorta, points at body of pancreas

arterial supply to pancreas
Arterial Supply to Pancreas

Proper Hepatic Artery

Common Hepatic Artery

Superior Mesenteric Artery

landmark structures continued
Landmark structures, continued …

4. Splenic Vein:

a. runs parallel to artery

b. on posterior surface of pancreas

c. Terminates in portal vein

landmark structures continued1
Landmark structures, continued …

5. Superior & Inferior Mesenteric Veins:

a. pass (inferior to superior) deep to pancreas

b. merge with splenic vein

c. Terminate in portal vein

landmark structures continued2
Landmark structures, continued …

6. Common Bile Duct:

a. passes behind first portion of duodenum

b. then through head of pancreas

c. Terminates at ampulla of vater

detailed anatomy continued
Detailed Anatomy continued …

B. Head of Pancreas

1. Important clinically because:

a. Numerous ducts and vessels traverse it

b. Carcinoma usually located here


Head of Pancreas, Detailed Anatomy, continued …

2. Tumor will compress surrounding structures

a. First indication may be jaundice

b. Tumor may compress duodenum

c. May involve local vessels

*Metastases may spread through these vessels*


Head of Pancreas, Detailed Anatomy, continued …

3. Lymphatics from head of pancreas

a. Drain to celiac nodes

b. metastases may follow lymph

c. Metastases may spread via lesser omentum to liver

d. Some terminate in lumbar nodes


Head of Pancreas, Detailed Anatomy, continued …

4. Vessels supplying head of pancreas

a. Superior & inferior pancreaticoduodenal arteries

b. Both divide into two parallel vessels

c. one anterior and one posterior to head

head of pancreas detailed anatomy continued
Head of Pancreas, Detailed Anatomy, continued …

Anterior branch of pancreaticoduodenal artery

a. superior branch: anterior superior pancreaticoduodenal artery

b. inferior branch:anterior inferior pancreaticoduodenal


head of pancreas detailed anatomy continued1
Head of Pancreas, Detailed Anatomy, continued …

2. Posterior branch of pancreaticoduodenal artery

a. superior branch:posterior superior pancreaticoduodenal artery

b. inferior branch: posterior inferior pancreaticoduodenal artery

**extensive blood supply**

anterior pancreaticoduodenal artery
Anterior Pancreaticoduodenal Artery
  • Branches are continuous with one another
  • Superior branches originate from the GDA
  • Inferior branches originate from the SMA

Detailed Anatomy, continued …

  • Body & Tail of Pancreas:

1. Supplied by splenic artery 2. Have three surfaces:

a. Anterior surface

  • 1. Concave
  • 2. Deep to stomach
  • 3. Separated from stomach by lesser sac of peritoneum
  • (aka omental bursa)
anterior surface of pancreas
Anterior surface of pancreas

Epiploic foramen

Anterior surface of pancreas


Lesser sac, continued …

4. Lesser sac bounded by:

a. Liver, superiorly

b. Below, extends to greater omentum

c. Anteriorly: lesser omentum, stomach, greater omentum


Lesser sac, continued …

  • d. Posteriorly: greater omentum transverse colon, transverse mesocolon

e. Laterally:

    • Foramen of Winslow on right
    • Spleen on left

Detailed Anatomy, continued …

f. Foramen of Winslow (AKA: Epiploic Foramen):

1. Lies between greater & lesser sacs of peritoneum

2. posterior to free edge of lesser omentum

3. close to porta hepatis


Three Surfaces, continued …

2. Posterior surface: separated from vertebrae by

a. Aorta

b. Splenic vein

c. Left kidney and renal vessels

d. Left adrenal gland

e. Left Crus of diaphragm

f. SMA and SMV


Three surfaces, continued …

3. Inferior surface of Pancreatic body:

a. Rests on duodeno-jejunal flexure

b. Left extremity (tail)

1. Rests on splenic flexure

2. Abuts hilus of spleen


Detailed Anatomy, continued …

    • D. Pancreatic Duct System
    • 1. Pancreatic Duct (of Wirsung)
    • a. Course is left to right
    • b. Receives numerous small ducts
    • c. @ neck of pancreas, duct turns inferior, posterior & to the right
    • d. AKA “main pancreatic duct’

Pancreatic Duct System, continued …

  • d. joins CBD at Ampulla of Vater 3 - 4” below pylorus
    • e. results from fusion of ducts during fetal development
    • 1. One from ventral pancreas 2. One from dorsal pancreas
    • (see Netter’s Embryology, p. 142, for Pancreas development)
duct of wirsung
Duct of Wirsung

Duct of Wirsung


Pancreatic Duct System, continued …

    • 2. Duct of Santorini:

a. accessory pancreatic duct

b. Not universally identified

          • joins duodenum @ minor papilla

d. part of duct from dorsal pancreas


Pancreatic Duct System, continued …

3. In 10% of population

a. ducts fail to fuse

b. result is drainage of tail, body, & most of head through minor papilla

c. Not pathological


III. Scanning Anatomy

    • A. Depends on recognition of pancreatic margins
  • B. Sonography best used as screening procedure
  • 1. May be interference from bowel gas (especially in tail region)

Scanning Anatomy, continued …

2. Extremely accurate in detection of pseudocysts

3. U/S can show texture of organ

4. By ID-ing vessels, can delineate head, portions of body


Scanning Anatomy, continued …

5. U/S can frequently detect dilation of pancreatic duct

6. Splenic Vein: landmark vessel

a. usually seen along posterior margin of body, tail

b. May be anterior (~30%)


Scanning Anatomy, continued …

C. Head:

1. SMV outlines medial head to neck region

2. Duodenum & GB outline lateral head

3. Superiorly, delineated by gastroduodenal artery (GDA)

4. Inferiorly, bounded by CBD


Scanning Anatomy, continued …

  • D. Further delineation by vascular landmarks:
      • SMA:
    • a. Lies immediately posterior to body, points to it!
      • b. Recognized by echogenic fat collar surrounding vessel
vascular landmarks of the pancreas
Vascular Landmarks of the Pancreas
  • Pancreatic sonography depends largely on identifying surrounding landmark vessels

Scanning Anatomy, continued …

      • 2. SMV:
    • a. Delineates medial head
    • b. Larger diameter than SMA
    • c. Lies to right of SMA
    • d. Uncinate process wraps it (and SMA), lies posterior & medial
vascular landmarks of the pancreas1
Vascular Landmarks of the Pancreas
  • Venous landmarks of the pancreas include the SMV and renal veins

Scanning Anatomy, continued …

3. Left Renal Vein:

a. as it enters IVC

b. head & uncinate process should lie within 1 – 2 cm

c. Landmark vessel posterior to body of pancreas


Scanning Anatomy, continued …

  • E. Tail of Pancreas
  • 1. May be visualized through fluid-filled stomach
  • 2. Tail seen as 2-3 cm rounded mass anterior to hilus of left kidney

IV. Pancreatic Disorders

A. Pancreatitis: diagnosis depends on clinical evidence

1. Usually secondary to biliary tract disease

2. Surgery of biliary tract or stomach, alcoholism are other causes


Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

3. Infrequent causes:

a. Infectious diseases

b. Trauma

d. Drugs

e. Hyperparathyroidism

4. Inflammation may be diffuse or spotty


Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

5. Important factor is release of protein kinins

a. Increase permeability of vessels & cells

b. Releases tissue fluid

c. Edema may compress vessels

d. Tissue damage occurs


Pancreatitis, Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

6. WBC’s may increase to 20,000/ml

7. Increase in pancreatic enzymes

a. serum bilirubinase (by 25%)

b. serum amylase

c. serum lipase


Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

  • B. Pseudocysts:
  • 1. “False” cysts that may arise
  • a. due to tissue necrosis
  • b. From enzymatic destruction
    • 2. May persist after inflammation subsides
    • 3. Usually near or in pancreas

Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

    • 4. Rarely, may be elsewhere
    • a. in abdomen or pelvis
    • b. Rarely, mediastinum
    • 5. Pseudocyst appearance
    • a. unilocular or multilocular
    • b. echoes from pus & cellular debris

Pancreatic Diseases, continued

C. Acute Pancreatitis

1. Diffuse enlargement

2. Less echogenic due to edema

3. Echogenicity usually > liver parenchyma


Pancreatic Diseases, continued …

D. Chronic Pancreatitis

1. organ usually appears as small, atrophic

2. Contains scattered echoes from calcifications

3. Primary cause is alcoholism


Pancreatic Diseases, continued …

E. Dilation of Pancreatic Duct

1. Seen in acute or chronic pancreatitis

2. Frequently associated with neoplasm of pancreas

3. Biliary tract problems


Pancreatic Diseases, continued …

F. Abscess or Hemorrhagic Pancreatitis

1. Similar in sonographic appearance

2. Hemorrhagic:

a. Mass with inhomogeneous texture

b. Acute hemorrhage: sonolucent to echogenic

c. CT scan used for differentiation


Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

  • G. Pancreatic Tumors
    • 1. Malignant tumors usually arise as adenocarcinomas
    • 2. In head of Pancreas: Sx
      • a. Painless jaundice
      • b. Anorexia

Pancreatic Tumors, In head, continued …

      • c. Nausea
      • d. Weight loss
      • e. Increased plasma amylase
      • f. Increased alkaline phosphatase
      • g. May involve compression of pancreatic duct, CBD
pancreatic tumors in the head
Pancreatic Tumors in the Head
  • Tumors in the head may compress biliary ducts or pancreatic ducts

Pancreatic tumors, continued …

3. In Body of Pancreas: Sx

a. Gnawing pain radiating to back

b. Pain increases after eating or lying down

c. Weight loss, anorexia

d. Large tumor may compress IVC, portal vein


Pancreatic tumors, continued …

4. In Tail of Pancreas: Sx

a. Often silent until local metastasis occurs

b. May metastasize to:

1. para-aortic lymph nodes

2. spleen


Pancreatic tumors, continued …

5. Identified by organ enlargement, subtle echo changes, irregular outline

6. Metastases to stomach, liver & lungs are common

7. Often causes dilation of ducts


Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

    • H. Fibrocystic Disease
    • 1. Result of cystic fibrosis
    • 2. Diagnosed by methods other than ultrasound

Pancreatic Disorders, continued …

I. Pancreaticolithiasis

1. Characteristic stone echoes in pancreatic duct

2. May see atrophied pancreatic parenchyma

3. Associated with chronic alcoholic pancreatitis

4. Contours of body, tail show irregularities


Pancreatolithiasis, continued …

5. Incidence slightly higher in head

6. Associated with occult pancreatic carcinoma

a. Mass < 2mm diameter

b. Seen with dilation of pancreatic duct or CBD