GI Radiology > Pancreas > Anatomy

Anatomy of the Pancreas


   The pancreas develops from dorsal and ventral diverticula that buds from the primitive foregut.  These two buds fuse after the rotation of the duodenum adjoins the two structures.  The ventral bud develops from the hepatic duct, and forms the uncinate process and the posterior/inferior head of the pancreas.  The dorsal bud develops directly from the foregut, forming the anterior head, body and tail of the pancreas.  The distal duct system of the dorsal bud joins with that of the ventral bud to form the main pancreatic duct (of Wirsung), which joins with the common bile duct at the level of the ampulla of Vater.  The distal duct system of the dorsal bud may persist as the accessory pancreatic duct (of Santorini), and empties into the duodenum at the minor duodenal papilla.  The "normal" short axis measurement of the pancreas is 2.5 cm at the head, and 1.5 cm at the tail; there are normal variations.  In general, the pancreas decreases with size with age.
 


 

Embryological Development of the Pancreas


Friedman AC: The pancreas. In Taveras & Ferrucci, Radiology, Diagnosis-Imaging-Intervention. Phila: Lippincott-Raven, 1992, p 2.

C. Pancreas divisum
D. Normal fusion of pancreatic buds and ducts

 

Pancreatic Anatomy


Gay, SB. "Radiology Recall" Lippincott Williams & Wilkins 2000, p392.

A: Right hepatic duct
B: Left hepatic duct
C: Main hepatic duct
D: Main pancreatic duct (of Wirsung)
E: Pancreatic tail
F: Body of pancreas
G: Ligament of Treitz
H: Third part of duodenum
I: Major duodenal papilla/sphincter of Oddi
J: Head of pancreas
K: Accessory pancreatic duct (of Santorini)
L: common bile duct
M: Cystic duct

 

   Although the above described ductal anatomy is most common, there are several congenital variations in the union of the two primitive pancreatic ducts (the main ducts of the ventral and dorsal buds), as illustrated below.
 

Common Variations in Ductal Anatomy


Friedman AC: The pancreas.  In Taveras & Ferrucci, Radiology, Diagnosis-Imaging-Intervention. Phila: Lippincott-Raven, 1992, p 2.

 

   There are also several variations in the union of the bile and pancreatic ducts, as illustrated below.  It is important to be aware of these variations in ductal anatomy, which can be visualized using several imaging modalities. 
 


Netter FH, Atlas of Human Anatomy, CIBA-GEIGY, 1989, Plate 278

 

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