Abdominal ultrasound is very important in the diagnosis of intra-abdominal disease. However, this technique has limitations as it does not allow the definitive diagnosis of most abnormalities encountered during the abdominal ultrasound evaluation.
For instance, an abdominal ultrasound will show a liver or splenic mass, but will not allow characterization of the mass (type of cancer). Therefore, other test modalities like a biopsy (removal of part of the mass) or cytology (aspiration of the mass) are crucial in further characterizing the mass. Cytology is not useful for all types of cancer, but it is a non-invasive form of attaining more information in most cases.
Cytology of the pancreas can be useful in diagnosing atypical conditions like septic pancreatitis (presence of bacteria in the pancreas).