A Diagnostic Strategy to Distinguish Autoimmune Pancreatitis From Pancreatic Cancer

Suresh T. Chari, Naoki Takahashi, Michael J. Levy, Thomas C. Smyrk, Jonathan E. Clain, Randall K. Pearson, Bret T. Petersen, Mark A. Topazian, Santhi S. Vege

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

268 Scopus citations


Background & Aims: Autoimmune pancreatitis (AIP) and pancreatic cancer (PaC) have similar presentations; a diagnostic strategy is needed to distinguish the 2 diseases. Methods: We compared computed tomography images (for pancreas and other organ involvement), serum IgG4 levels, histology data, and the response to steroids between patients with AIP (n = 48) and those with PaC (n = 100). Results: Pancreatic imaging findings stratified patients into 3 groups. Group 1 was highly suggestive of AIP, with diffuse pancreatic enlargement without group 3 features (n = 25, 100% AIP). Group 2 was indeterminate, with normal-sized pancreas or focal pancreatic enlargement without group 3 features (n = 20, 75% AIP). Group 3 was highly suggestive of PaC, with presence of >1 low-density mass, pancreatic duct cutoff, or upstream pancreatic atrophy (n = 103, 92% PaC). Although all patients in group 1 had AIP, only 20 of the 25 patients had increased serum IgG4 levels and/or other organ involvement. Of the patients in groups 2 and 3 who did not have cancer, all those with serum IgG4 levels >2-fold the upper limit of normal or a combination of increased serum IgG4 levels and other organ involvement (n = 15) had AIP. In AIP subjects without supportive serologic evidence or other organ involvement (n = 14), diagnosis required pancreatic core biopsy (n = 7), steroid trial (n = 5), or resection (n = 2). Conclusions: PaC can be distinguished from AIP by pancreatic imaging, measurement of serum IgG4 levels, and determination of other organ involvement. However, a pancreatic core biopsy, steroid trial, or surgery is required for diagnosis in approximately 30% of patients with AIP. To view this article's video abstract, go to the AGA's YouTube Channel.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1097-1103
Number of pages7
JournalClinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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