Scan plane for transverse pancreas  Anatomy of pancreas and surrounds
Pancreas Scan Plane
Normal Pancreas and surrounding anatomy



 Sagittal scan plane Pancreas  Pancreatic Head
Sagittal Scan Plane Pancreatic Head
Head of pancreas


Fatty infiltration of the pancreas

  • A common finding is sparing of the uncinate process due to it's different embryologic origins.

Sparing of the Uncinate Process

No mass effect
Fatty infiltration of the pancreas with focal sparing of the uncinate process.
You can see no mass effect or compression of the CBD. A progress u/s to confirm or, if in doubt, a double contrast CT can help confirm this finding.




Give the patient an oral waterload (2-3 glasses) and scan  them erect.

The water is used as a window to look through when it is in the stomach and duodenum.


 Pancreas Visualisation with and without water  Overlying structures

The pancreas before water and (mouse over) after 2 glasses of water.

This picture shows the stomach and duodenum lying anterior to the pancreas. This is why the water is so successful in helping visualise the pancreas.


To learn about pancreatic embryology


Ultrasound of the Pancreas - Protocol

Role of Ultrasound

  •  Always tailor your scan to the clinical signs.
  • Always take a thorough history including previous cancer,diseases,blood results,family history and past surgery.
  • Perform an initial overall scan without imaging to get an idea what pathology there might be and how it might relate to the patients current complaint.


  • Often you will have problems with bowel gas overlying the pancreas.

Ways to overcome this include :

  • Deep inspiration / expiration
  • Distend the abdomen against the probe. (ask the patient to push their stomach out as if they are pregnant!)
  • Give the patient an oral waterload (2-3 glasses).The water is used as a window to look through when it is in the stomach and duodenum.
  • Scan with the patient erect.
  • Roll the patient into a rt lateral decubitus position and scan coronally using the spleen as a window to view the splenic tail.

Equipment Selection


  • Highest frequency curved linear array probe as possible.
  • Start with 6MHz and work down to 2 or 3 for larger patients.
  • Assess the depth of penetration required and adapt.The gallbladder should be able to be scanned using a 7MHZ as it is so superficial.Paediatric and thin pts should be scanned with a 7MHz also.


Patient position


  • Generally the pancreas can be viewed with the patient supine.
  • Erect views may be useful if colon gas is obscuring the view.
  • If the patient has been given an oral waterload, a right semi-decubitus position will displace gas away from the pancreas.

Patient Preparation


  • Fast for 6 hours. No food or drink.No smoking.
  • Preferably book the appointment in the morning to reduce bowel gas.



Scanning Technique


  • Begin transversely, high in the epigastrum.
  • You may need to apply enough pressure to help displace bowel gas.
  • Adjust image depth so the aorta is at the bottom of the screen.

Head of pancreas - Use both transverse & sagittal planes as the head can be quite long and continue left caudally for several centimeters.

Body of Pancreas - Transverse probe. Use the splenic vein to help identify the pancreas superficial to this.

Tail of pancreas - Start with the probe transverse then angle the heel of the probe cephalad and left as the tail can be sitting up under the spleen. Thus the spleen can be used as a window and a left intercostal coronal approach can also be utilised.

Ultrasound Appearances

  • Normal appearance is usually homogeneous and almost isoechoic with the liver.
  • It is frequently hyperechoic compared to the liver because of fatty infiltration.


  • Varies with age and history.

Approximate normal measurements are:

  • Head  35mm (anterior to posterior)
  • Neck 10-15mm
  • Tail 20mm

Common Pathology

  • Adenocarcinoma
  • Pseudocyst
  • Pancreatitis
  • Fatty change
  • Insulinomas
  • Pancreatic artery aneurysm/calcification
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Congenital / acquired cysts

Basic Hard Copy Imaging

  • The normal anatomy.
  • Any pathology found, in 2 planes.
  • Include measurements and any vascularity.


Direct radiology 
Global health source


Download USP on the app store

Login|View Cart|Email|Print

Download USP on the app store


© Copyright 2014 Ultrasoundpaedia

Preloaded imagePreloaded imagePreloaded imagePreloaded imagePreloaded imagePreloaded imagePreloaded imagePreloaded imagePreloaded image