What is a Pancreatic Pseudocyst?

Pancreatic cysts are pockets of fluid which tend to occur in some people who develop pancreatitis. In the majority of cases, the cysts are not cancerous. The cysts look like a balloon and tend to increase in size after a bout of pancreatitis. Most cysts are made up of a wall lining that has no cancerous ability. These cysts are called pseudocysts because their wall lining is not like a normal cyst.

Pancreatic cyst symptoms may vary from continuous abdominal pain which may radiate to the back or pain that is intermittent and associated with nausea and vomiting. Other pancreatic cyst symptoms may include a sensation of fullness or feeling bloated all the time. The actual cause of cysts in the pancreas is not known. A well known genetic disorder known to cause cysts is von hippel landau syndrome.

A pseudo pancreatic cyst tends to occur after a bout of pancreatitis which is a painful condition of the abdomen. In pancreatitis, there are digestive enzymes released which damage the pancreas itself and cause pain. In some cases, pancreatic swellings are known to occur after blunt trauma to the abdomen. A major cause of pseudo pancreatic cyst is excess consumption of alcohol. The next most common cause of the cysts are gallstones.

The diagnosis of cysts requires radiological studies like ultrasound and CT scan of the abdomen. The fluid from the cyst can be aspirated via CT scan or endoscopy. Individuals who develop a cyst without a history of trauma or pancreatitis are usually more thoroughly worked up to ensure that the cyst is not a cancer.

The treatment of a cyst depends on the type, size and symptoms. In individuals who develop a cyst after a bout of pancreatitis, size is the key factor. Many cysts less than 4-6 cms do resolve on their own and thus a period of watchful waiting is preferred. Large or symptomatic cysts can be treated by simply taking the fluid out of the cyst with either ultrasound or CT scan. Sometimes, surgery is done when there is doubt about the origin of the cyst and ruling out a cancer.

All cysts that are observed need to be followed to ensure that they are not enlarging. Most doctors follow patients every 3-6 months to look at the size of the cysts. If the cysts continue to grow, a biopsy is performed. The best treatment for cysts is surgery. Pancreatic cyst surgery is associated with a low recurrence rate. However, one should stop drinking alcohol to avoid recurrences.

The best way to avoid pancreatic pseudocyst is to avoid developing pancreatitis. Two conditions which frequently predispose patients to pancreatitis are gallstones and alcohol. One should discontinue alcohol consumption to prevent recurrent pancreatitis. If you have gallstones and prone to pancreatitis, you can have your gallbladder removed safely through a laparoscopic procedure. If you do have gallstones and never had any symptoms, the best advice is to leave them alone. Pancreatic cysts are quite rare today as most people are treated promptly after a bout of pancreatitis.

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