What is the role of MRI in the workup of pancreatic cancer?

Updated: Oct 02, 2020
  • Author: Tomislav Dragovich, MD, PhD; Chief Editor: N Joseph Espat, MD, MS, FACS  more...
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Interest in using MRI for abdominal imaging continues to grow. The role of MRI in pancreatic cancer has been less well studied than has the role of CT scanning, although the modality does not appear to be superior to spiral CT scanning. Dynamic, gadolinium-enhanced, 3D, gradient-echo MRI may offer enhanced sensitivity in the detection of small pancreatic lesions. However, in patients with jaundice, MRCP can be used as a noninvasive method for imaging the biliary tree and pancreatic duct.

Whether MRCP is as sensitive and specific for pancreaticobiliary pathology as other procedures is still being investigated.

Because of the difficulty of working within intense magnetic fields, MRI is limited in performing MRI-directed needle aspirations; however, this technology is undergoing rapid change.

The NCCN notes that MRI is most often used as a problem-solving tool, particularly for characterization of liver lesions that are indeterminate on CT; when pancreatic tumors are suspected, but are not visible on CT; or when contrast-enhanced CT cannot be obtained (eg, because of severe allergy to iodinated intravenous contrast material).


Go to Radiologic Diagnosis and Staging of Pancreatic Carcinoma for complete information on this topic.

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