The Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center

Endoscopic Ultrasound

Endoscopic ultrasound (EUS) is a significant improvement over the standard (transabdominal) ultrasound. During standard transabdominal ultrasound the ultrasound probe is placed externally on the surface of the abdomen which limits the resolution of the images. EUS is an improvement on this technique because the ultrasound probe is placed much closer to the pancreas. The ultrasound probe is placed in close proximity to the pancreas by attaching it to the end of a standard gastrointestinal endoscope and passing the endoscope in the mouth, down the esophagus and into the stomach and duodenum. The close proximity of the ultrasound probe to the pancreas produces a much clearer image than a transabdominal ultrasound.

EUS enables the doctor, called an endoscopist, to identify small (<1 centimeter; <1/2 inch) abnormalities in the pancreas. There are small pancreas cancers that can be detected with EUS that cannot be visualized currently with a CT scan. Technological improvements are enabling a generation of even more accurate EUS images of the pancreas and such improvements are expected to continue.

Although EUS can visualize small masses it cannot be used to make a diagnosis of cancer with certainty. For this reason, EUS is often combined with a biopsy. One advantage of the EUS procedure is that this biopsy can be taken through the EUS endoscope.

The main variable in the success of an EUS investigation is the experience of the endoscopist. The technique is difficult and the optimal use of this technique depends on the considerable skill of the endoscopist.

endoscopic ultrasound