Pancreas divisum

Pancreas divisum  represents a variation in pancreatic ductal anatomy that can be associated with abdominal pain and idiopathic pancreatitis. It is characterised, in the majority of cases, by the dorsal pancreatic duct (main pancreatic and Santorini  ducts) directly entering the minor papilla  with no communication with the ventral duct (Wirsung), and thus, the major papilla.


It is the most common variation of pancreatic duct formation and may be present in ~4-10 % of the general population 3-4,6. Its MRCP prevalence is at around 9% with autopsy prevalence going up to 14% 7.

Clinical presentation

Most people with a pancreas divisum are asymptomatic, but this is more frequently found in patients with chronic abdominal pain and idiopathic pancreatitis than in the general population 4.


It results from failure of fusion of dorsal and ventral pancreatic anlages. As a result, the dorsal pancreatic duct drains most of the pancreatic glandular parenchyma via the minor papilla. Although controversial, this variant is considered as a cause of pancreatitis. 

Pancreatic divisum can result in a santorinicoele, which is a cystic dilatation of the distal dorsal duct (Santorini duct), immediately proximal to the minor papilla.  

Three subtypes are known:

  • type 1 (classic): no connection at all; occurs in the majority of cases: 70% 
  • type 2 (absent ventral duct): minor papilla drain all of pancreas while major papilla drains bile duct; 20-25% 
  • type 3 (functional): filamentous or inadequate connection between dorsal and ventral ducts: 5-6%

Radiographic features

Fluoroscopy: ERCP

It was the traditional method of diagnosis where a pancreas divisum was suspected when there was no contrast extending towards the pancreatic tail upon administration at the ampulla of Vater.

MRCP/MRI pancreas

It is the standard method of evaluation in modern times. The key imaging features are:

  • the dorsal pancreatic duct being in direct continuity with the duct of Santorini, which drains into the minor ampulla
  • ventral duct (Wirsung duct), which does not communicate with the dorsal duct but joins with the distal bile duct to enter the major ampulla

Some authors suggest increased sensitivity of secretin MRCP (S-MRCP) in detection sensitivity of pancreas divisum 2.

Treatment and prognosis

There are several management options in selected cases which include 6:

  • minor papillectomy
  • minor papilla stenting
  • balloon dilatation of an any associated stricture

More content required on prognosis.

Abdominal and pelvic anatomy
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Article Information:

rID: 18365
System: Hepatobiliary
Section: Anatomy
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Pancreatic divisum
  • Pancreas divisum (PD)
  • Divisum of pancreas
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    Figure 1: pancreatic divisum
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    Case 1
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    Long TE SS-FSE th...
    Case 2
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    Case 3
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    Pancreas divisum
    Case 4
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    Case 5
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    Case 6
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    Case 7: coronal source image from 3D MRCP
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    Case 8
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    Case 9: with cholelithiasis
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