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Hold That Pose

A noninvasive endoscopic ultrasound found a precancerous lesion on Donna Stephens’ pancreas. The alpaca farm owner is now being monitored regularly.


Last year, Donna Stephens of Marysville had a CT scan to monitor some suspected heart problems. To her surprise, the scan also revealed a suspicious spot on her pancreas.

"Of course, I thought the worst, and I was sure I would at least need surgery to diagnose the problem," explains Stephens, 58, an alpaca farm owner. "But I was relieved when my doctor told me about a new diagnostic procedure at OSU that was noninvasive and did not require general anesthesia."

Diagnosis and Treatment Advances

The new procedure Stephens learned about was endoscopic ultrasound (EUS), which uses noninvasive ultrasound technology inside the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Ultrasound uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of organs and systems within the body, and is most widely known for creating prenatal images of babies. With EUS, an ultrasound transducer is attached to a long, flexible tube that can be inserted into either end of the GI tract.

"EUS has revolutionized the care we offer for GI issues and related problems," says Stephens' doctor, Luis Pompa, MD, assistant professor in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at Ohio State. "The main applications of EUS are for the diagnosis and staging of pancreatic cancer, esophageal cancer, gastric or stomach cancer, rectal cancer, bile duct stones and other related issues. EUS is extremely safe, and it provides phenomenal views of the GI tract. So, it's really a great test."

Prior to the EUS technology, doctors relied on CT-guided biopsies, which penetrate the skin and other organs to reach the site in question. They may also have used open or laparoscopic surgery to diagnose or evaluate these disorders.

"With the EUS, the patient can be evaluated, diagnosed and staged all in a few hours, without general anesthesia or an overnight stay in the hospital," explains Dr. Pompa. "In Donna's case, the EUS revealed a mucinous cystic neoplasm, a precancerous lesion that often ‘grows up' to be cancer. Therefore, she requires testing every six months to monitor the cyst. The EUS is far easier for her and patients like her."

New Frontiers for OSU

"The EUS and our new state-of-the-art endoscopy suite are huge advancements for our department," says G. Nicholas Verne, MD, director of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition. "The EUS is superior in image quality, because the ultrasound probe is so close to the organs we want to see."

"The EUS procedure was so simple, a lot like having an upper GI endoscopy," says Stephens. "Dr. Pompa was wonderful, and his expertise with diagnosing my pancreatic growth gave me great peace of mind."

For a referral to the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatalogy and Nutrition, find a primary care doctor near you.