Conditions & Treatments

Pseudocysts of the Pancreas

Pseudocysts of the pancreas are abnormal collections of fluid, dead tissue, pancreatic enzymes, and blood that can lead to a painful mass in the pancreas.

Pseudocysts of the Pancreas

What are pseudocysts of the pancreas?

Pseudocysts of the pancreas are abnormal collections of fluid, dead tissue, pancreatic enzymes, and blood that can lead to a painful mass in the pancreas. Pseudocysts usually develop several weeks after an episode of acute pancreatitis (a sudden, painful inflammation of the pancreas). Alcoholism also contributes to the risk of pseudocysts of the pancreas. Other, more rare causes include abdominal trauma and gallbladder disease.

What are the signs and symptoms of pseudocysts of the pancreas?

The following are the most common symptoms of pseudocysts of the pancreas. However, each individual may experience symptoms differently. Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Poor appetite

  • Weight loss

  • Diarrhea

  • Fever

  • Abdominal mass. The abdomen will be tender and swollen.

  • Jaundice. A yellowing of the skin and eyes.

  • Ascites. Fluid buildup in the abdominal cavity.

The symptoms of pseudocysts of the pancreas may resemble other medical conditions or problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How are pseudocysts of the pancreas diagnosed?

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, diagnostic procedures for pseudocysts of the pancreas may include the following:

  • Blood tests

  • Chest x-ray. A diagnostic test that uses invisible electromagnetic energy beams to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.

  • Computed tomography scan (CT or CAT scan). A diagnostic imaging procedure using a combination of X-rays and computer technology to produce horizontal, or axial, images (often called slices) of the body. A CT scan shows detailed images of any part of the body, including the bones, muscles, fat, and organs. CT scans are more detailed than general X-rays.

  • Ultrasound (also called sonography). A diagnostic imaging technique that uses high-frequency sound waves and a computer to create images of blood vessels, tissues, and organs. Ultrasounds are used to view internal organs of the abdomen such as the liver, spleen, and kidneys and to assess blood flow through various vessels.

  • Endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography (ERCP). A procedure that allows the doctor to diagnose and treat problems in the liver, gallbladder, bile ducts, and pancreas. The procedure combines X-ray and the use of an endoscope, which is a long, flexible, lighted tube. The scope is guided through the patient's mouth and throat, then through the esophagus, stomach, and duodenum. The doctor can examine the inside of these organs and detect any abnormalities. A tube is then passed through the scope, and a dye is injected which will allow the internal organs to appear on an X-ray.

What are treatments for pseudocysts of the pancreas?

Specific treatment for pseudocysts of the pancreas will be determined by your doctor based on:

  • Your age, overall health, and medical history

  • Extent of the disease

  • Your tolerance of specific medicines, procedures, or therapies

  • Expectations for the course of the disease

  • Your opinion or preference

The goal for treatment of a pancreatic pseudocyst is to monitor its growth and to treat it surgically if it grows, or if there is risk for complications.

Treatment may include:

  • Close monitoring by scans (to determine any change in size)

  • Surgical drainage of the cyst(s)

  • Endoscopic drainage of the cyst (using an instrument called an endoscope, which has a tiny light and camera to locate the cyst)

  • Percutaneous (through the skin) drainage of the cyst using a needle (guided by a CT scan)

If left untreated or unmonitored, pseudocysts can rupture, causing extreme pain, blood loss, and infection.

Treatment Programs


Massachusetts General Hospital understands that a variety of factors influence patients' health care decisions. That's just one reason why we're dedicated to ensuring patients understand their diagnosis and treatment options. Because a single option might not serve all patients, we offer a wide range of coordinated treatments and related services across the hospital. Patients should consult with their primary care doctor or other qualified health care provider for medical advice and diagnosis information.

Select a treatment program for more information:



Digestive Healthcare Center

  • Pancreas and Biliary Center
    The Pancreas and Biliary Center at the Massachusetts General Hospital Digestive Healthcare Center provides patients with specialized options for the detection, diagnosis, treatment and management of pancreatic and biliary diseases.
Imaging

  • Pediatric Imaging
    The Pediatric Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging specializes in ensuring the safety and comfort of child patients while providing the latest technology and the expertise of specialized pediatric radiologists.
  • Adult Medicine Imaging
    The Adult Medicine Imaging Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Imaging offers a wide range of diagnostic exams and minimally invasive, image-guided treatments, all provided using leading-edge equipment and interpreted by specialty-trained radiologists.
MassGeneral Hospital for Children

  • Pediatric Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Program
    The Pediatric Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children diagnoses and treats infants, children and adolescents with diverse hepatic, biliary and pancreatic disorders.
Gastroenterology

  • Pancreas and Biliary Program
    The Pancreas and Biliary Program at the Gastroenterology Division of Massachusetts General Hospital provides patients with specialized options for the diagnosis, treatment and management of pancreatic and biliary diseases.

The following related clinical trials and research studies are currently seeking participants at Massachusetts General Hospital. Search for clinical trials and studies in another area of interest.

Physician-researchers discover keys to understanding pancreatic cysts

Up until the mid-1990s, physicians knew little about the relationship between pancreatic cysts and pancreatic cancer. But collaborative research conducted by gastroenterologists, surgeons, radiologists, and pathologists at the Massachusetts General Hospital Digestive Healthcare Center has led to a much greater understanding of pancreatic cystadenomas and what makes some cysts progress to cancer. These advances are opening up new therapies to target this deadly cancer early on, when it is most treatable.

Innovative care at the Digestive Healthcare Center

Learn more about the latest treatment options for this condition at the Digestive Healthcare Center