To analyse the prevalence, incidence and clinical relevance of pancreatic cysts detected as incidental finding in a population-based longitudinal study.Design
A total of 1077 participants (521 men, mean age 55.8±12.8 years) of 2333 participants from the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP) underwent magnetic resonance cholangiopancreaticography (MRCP) at baseline (2008–2012). MRCP was analysed for pancreatic cysts with a diameter ≥2 mm. 676/1077 subjects received a 5-year follow-up (2014–2016). The prevalence and incidence of pancreatic cysts (weighted for study participation) were assessed in association to age, gender and suspected epidemiological risk factors. Mortality follow-up was performed in 2015 for all SHIP participants (mean follow-up period 5.9 years, range 3.2–7.5 years).Results
At baseline pancreatic cysts had a weighted prevalence of 49.1%, with an average number of 3.9 (95% CI 3.2 to 4.5) cysts per subject in the subgroup harbouring cysts. Cyst size ranged from 2 to 29 mm. Prevalence (p<0.001), number (p=0.001) and maximum size (p<0.001) increased significantly with age. The 5-year follow-up revealed a weighted incidence of 12.9% newly detected pancreatic cysts. 57.1% of the subjects initially harbouring pancreatic cysts showed an increase in number and/or maximum cyst size. Of all subjects undergoing MRCP, no participant died of pancreatic diseases within mortality follow-up.Conclusion
The prevalence of pancreatic cysts in the general population is unexpectedly high, and their number and size increase with age. Overall, no pancreatic cancer was observed in this collective during a 5-year follow-up. Nevertheless, prospective follow-up imaging showed minimal progress in more than 50%. Only about 6% of cysts and 2.5% of the study group initially presented with cysts of more than 1 cm and thus might be clinically meaningful.