Spiral computed tomography for preoperative staging of potentially resectable carcinoma of the pancreatic head




Pancreatic cancer is often locally invasive. Preoperative staging attempts to identify patients suitable for resection, in order to minimize unnecessary operations. The aim of this study was to assess the improved imaging provided by spiral computed tomography (CT) in the preoperative staging of potentially resectable pancreatic head carcinoma.


In 56 consecutive patients with pancreatic head carcinoma spiral CT findings were correlated prospectively with operative and histopathological findings. Criteria for irresectability at CT were infiltration of the peripancreatic fat and vascular ingrowth grade D, on a scale from A to F.


At operation 27 (48 per cent) of 56 tumours were irresectable. Small metastases were found in seven patients (12 per cent). Ingrowth (adherence) to the portal or mesenteric vein was present in 19 patients (34 per cent). The sensitivity and specificity of CT for irresectability were 78 and 76 per cent respectively. Resection rates with a vascular margin free of tumour were 100 per cent for grade A, 63 per cent for grade B, 44 per cent for grade C, 15 per cent for grade D and 0 per cent for grade E, with a predictive value for ingrowth of 88 per cent for grades D or higher. The resectability rate was 11 per cent (one of nine) when infiltration of the anterior peripancreatic fat was present and 67 per cent when infiltration was absent (P < 0·01).


Spiral CT with thin slices seems to improve detection of distant metastases and vascular ingrowth in patients with pancreatic head carcinoma. © 1999 British Journal of Surgery Society Ltd