Pancreatic heterotopia

by Jason Wasserman MD PhD FRCPC
June 5, 2022

What is pancreatic heterotopia?

Pancreatic heterotopia is a term used to describe the presence of normal-appearing pancreatic tissue in an organ other than the pancreas. It is a non-cancerous change. Pancreatic heterotopia is commonly seen in the esophagus, stomach, and small bowel where it can mimic other types of abnormal growths such as cancerous tumours. For this reason, doctors often perform a procedure called a biopsy to rule out more serious conditions.

What causes pancreatic heterotopia?

Pancreatic heterotopia is believed to be a congenital abnormality which means it develops before birth. In most cases, the cause is unknown.

What are the symptoms of pancreatic heterotopia?

The symptoms of pancreatic heterotopia depend on the location and size of the tissue. A small area of pancreatic heterotopia normally does not cause any symptoms and the tissue is discovered incidentally when imaging such as a CT scan or upper endoscopy is performed for another reason. However, large areas can partially block the esophagus or small bowel and this can result in symptoms such as pain, bloating, bleeding, and in rare cases, small bowel obstruction.

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