Disorders of the pediatric pancreas: imaging features

Abstract

The purpose of this manuscript is to provide an overview of the normal development of the pancreas as well as pancreatic pathology in children. Diagnostic imaging plays a major role in the evaluation of the pancreas in infants and children. Familiarity with the range of normal appearance and the diseases that commonly affect this gland is important for the accurate and timely diagnosis of pancreatic disorders in the pediatric population. Normal embryology is discussed, as are the most common congenital anomalies that occur as a result of aberrant development during embryology. These include pancreas divisum, annular pancreas, agenesis of the dorsal pancreatic anlagen and ectopic pancreatic tissue. Syndromes that can manifest pancreatic pathology include: Beckwith Wiedemann syndrome, von Hippel–Lindau disease and autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease. Children and adults with cystic fibrosis and Shwachman–Diamond syndrome frequently present with pancreatic insufficiency. Trauma is the most common cause of pancreatitis in children. In younger children, unexplained pancreatic injury must always alert the radiologist to potential child abuse. Pancreatic pseudocysts are a complication of trauma, but can also be seen in the setting of acute or chronic pancreatitis from other causes. Primary pancreatic neoplasms are rare in children and are divided into exocrine tumors such as pancreatoblastoma and adenocarcinoma and into endocrine or islet cell tumors. Islet cell tumors are classified as functioning (insulinoma, gastrinoma, VIPoma and glucagonoma) and nonfunctioning tumors. Solid-cystic papillary tumor is probably the most common pancreatic tumor in Asian children. Although quite rare, secondary tumors of the pancreas can be associated with certain primary malignancies.

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