Advanced Imaging and Diagnosis

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Our skilled specialists lead the nation in advanced diagnostics and treatments for pancreatic disease and pancreatic cancer. Call 310-206-6889 to connect with us.

UCLA offers state-of-the-art testing only available at major medical centers across the county. Our integrated practice unit allows patients to see multiple specialists in a single visit, helping patients get diagnosed and treated faster.

DOTA-TATE Gallium-68 PET Scan

UCLA is one of the only hospitals in the country where patients can receive DOTA-TATE Gallium-68 PET scan, the gold standard for identifying pancreatic NETs (neuroendocrine tumors). It is the most accurate and sensitive test currently available, helping doctors to better detect smaller tumors earlier.

During this test:

  • You receive a small amount of tracer material through an IV.
  • The tracer travels through your body, sticking to cancer cells so specialists can identify the exact location of the tumors.
  • After waiting an hour for the body to absorb the tracer, you lie on a table that slides into a large tunnel for the scan.

Interventional Endoscopy

UCLA has the largest interventional endoscopy team in Los Angeles. This minimally invasive procedure involves a thin, flexible tube (endoscope) that’s inserted into your digestive tract. Specialists can then provide an accurate diagnosis without surgery.

Our diagnostic endoscopic services include:

  • EUS (endoscopic ultrasound): This procedure is the best way to detect small pancreatic tumors and cysts, even those missed by CT (computerized tomography) scan. Doctors can also take a small tissue sample for testing without having to operate.
  • ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography): This procedure lets doctors take X-rays of the bile duct, which carries bile from the liver and gallbladder. It’s also used to take tissue samples, place stents (hollow tubes) to relieve blockages and break up bile duct stones.  
  • Intracystic endoscopy: This is a minimally invasive procedure that takes tissue or fluid samples from cysts. Intracystic endoscopy procedures also include cystoscopy, which involves inserting a tiny camera inside a cyst, and CLE (confocal laser endomicroscopy) to take microscopic images of individual cells.
  • Pancreatoscopy (Spyglass™ procedure): This procedure involves placing a small camera through the endoscope into the pancreatic duct. Ours is one of the largest centers nationally using the high-resolution Spyglass™ device. We even host training programs to teach other doctors how to use the equipment.

Learn more about interventional endoscopy tests and treatments at UCLA.

Specialized CT and MRI Scans

Our team uses specialized CT (computerized tomography) and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to take exceptionally detailed images of your internal organs. These advanced methods, which include special procedures for both the pancreas and bile duct, provide clearer images than a standard CT or MRI.

Before the procedure, you will drink a special contrast liquid that helps highlight blood vessels within and around your pancreas or bile duct. Each scan takes about 30 minutes and may include:

  • CT: This scan uses a series of X-rays to get detailed images of your pancreas and nearby organs. During the procedure, you lay on a table that slides into a machine resembling a large donut.
  • MRI: This procedure uses radio waves and magnets to create detailed pictures of your organs. The scan involves laying on a narrow table that slides into a tunnel.


Routine Tests for Pancreatic Diseases

UCLA’s integrated practice unit gives you an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan without waiting weeks between specialist visits.

Common tests include:

  • Genetic testing: Our integrated practice unit is one of the only pancreatic centers offering genetic testing for familial pancreatic and breast cancer syndromes. Learn more about genetic counseling at UCLA.
  • PTC (percutaneous transhepatic cholangiography): In this procedure, doctors inject the bile duct with contrast dye to take X-rays of the bile and pancreatic ducts. This helps doctors diagnose diseases of the bile and pancreatic ducts.
  • Octreotide scan: This procedure helps doctors find pancreatic NETs. Similar to the DOTA-TATE Gallium-68 PET scan, this test involves an injection with a tracer that sticks to cancer cells. This helps doctors pinpoint NETs, and may even stop tumors from growing.
  • Biopsy: A biopsy is a tissue sample taken for lab testing. Pathologists analyze the tissue in the lab, helping specialists provide more precise diagnoses and personalized treatment plans.   
  • Blood tests: Your doctor may order blood tests to diagnose pancreatic disease. Liver function tests can help identify the cause of jaundice (yellowing of skin and eyes), which may or may not be cancer-related. Doctors may also test for tumor markers, although there is currently no blood test that accurately shows whether a patient has pancreatic cancer.