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Utility of ultrasound in acute pancreatitis

A Letter to the Editor to this article was published on 27 March 2020


Ultrasound plays an essential role in the initial evaluation of patients with suspected or confirmed acute pancreatitis. In addition to evaluation of the pancreatic parenchyma, ultrasound is used for assessment of the gallbladder, biliary tree, peripancreatic tissues, and regional vascular structures. While enlarged and edematous pancreas are classic sonographic features of acute pancreatitis, the pancreas may appear sonographically normal in the setting of acute pancreatitis. Nonetheless, sonographic evaluation in this setting is valuable because assessment for etiologic factors such as gallstones or evidence of biliary obstruction are best performed with ultrasound. Complications of pancreatitis such as peripancreatic fluid collections, venous thrombosis, or arterial pseudoaneurysm can be identified with careful and focused ultrasound examination. Knowledge of various scanning techniques can help to mitigate some of the commonly encountered barriers to sonographic visualization of the pancreas and right upper quadrant structures. Ultrasound can also be used for guidance of percutaneous treatment such as drainage of fluid collections or pseudoaneurysm thrombosis. Difficulty in differentiating edematous from necrotizing pancreatitis can be mitigated with the use of contrast-enhanced ultrasound to assess pancreatic parenchymal enhancement.

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Correspondence to David P. Burrowes.

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Burrowes, D.P., Choi, H.H., Rodgers, S.K. et al. Utility of ultrasound in acute pancreatitis. Abdom Radiol 45, 1253–1264 (2020).

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  • Pancreatitis
  • Gallstones
  • Ultrasound
  • Sonographic technique
  • Bile duct