Increasing Number of Passes Beyond 4 Does Not Increase Sensitivity of Detection of Pancreatic Malignancy by Endoscopic Ultrasound–Guided Fine-Needle Aspiration

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It is not clear exactly how many passes are required to determine whether pancreatic masses are malignant using endoscopic ultrasound–guided fine-needle aspiration (EUS-FNA). We aimed to define the per-pass diagnostic yield of EUS-FNA for establishing the malignancy of a pancreatic mass, and identify factors associated with detection of malignancies.


In a prospective study, 239 patients with solid pancreatic masses were randomly assigned to groups that underwent EUS-FNA, with the number of passes determined by an on-site cytopathology evaluation or set at 7 passes, at 3 tertiary referral centers. A final diagnosis of pancreatic malignancy was made based on findings from cytology, surgery, or a follow-up evaluation at least 1 year after EUS-FNA. The cumulative sensitivity of detection of malignancy by EUS-FNA was calculated after each pass; in the primary analysis, lesions categorized as malignant or suspicious were considered as positive findings.


Pancreatic malignancies were found in 202 patients (84.5% of the study population). EUS-FNA detected malignancies with 96% sensitivity (95% confidence interval [CI], 92%–98%); 4 passes of EUS-FNA detected malignancies with 92% sensitivity (95% CI, 87%–95%). Tumor size greater than 2 cm was the only variable associated with positive results from cytology analysis (odds ratio, 7.8; 95% CI, 1.9–31.6). In masses larger than 2 cm, 4 passes of EUS-FNA detected malignancies with 93% sensitivity (95% CI, 89%–96%) and in masses ≤2 cm, 6 passes was associated with 82% sensitivity (95% CI, 61%–93%). Sensitivity of detection did not increase with increasing number of passes.


In a prospective study, we found 4 passes of EUS-FNA to be sufficient to detect malignant pancreatic masses; increasing the number of passes did not increase the sensitivity of detection. Tumor size greater than 2 cm was associated with malignancy, and a greater number of passes may be required to evaluate masses 2 cm or less.ClinicalTrials.govnumber, NCT01386931.

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