What Is a Liver Cyst?

Liver cysts are often the result of abnormalities that occur during fetal development.
Symptoms of a liver cyst may include upper right abdominal pain.
Liver cysts are fluid-filled sacs that develop inside the liver.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 05 November 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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A liver cyst is a fluid-filled growth which develops inside the liver. A simple cyst is often the result of abnormalities which occurred during fetal development, and is usually benign. Complex cysts can be signs of underlying disease processes which require medical attention. Many people have benign liver cysts and are unaware of it, with cysts sometimes only being uncovered during medical imaging of the abdomen which is conducted for other reasons.

People with liver cysts can experience symptoms, whether or not the growths are benign. The upper right abdomen may feel painful or uncomfortable, and some patients experience a sensation of fullness in this area. If a patient starts to bleed into the cyst, this usually triggers sharp pain.

In the case of a simple cyst, the cyst may be drained through aspiration, with a needle being inserted into the growth and used to suck out the fluid. However, the cyst often refills, so not all doctors will recommend this procedure. Medical imaging may also be used to monitor the cyst so that suspicious changes can be identified quickly. It is not uncommon for one benign liver cyst to be surrounded by smaller cysts, which are also usually benign.

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In a condition known as polycystic liver disease, the liver is covered in numerous cysts, and can look like a cluster of grapes in a medical imaging study. People with polycystic liver disease may not necessarily experience problems, although sometimes the growth of the cysts later in life interferes with liver function or causes pain.

More seriously, a cystic tumor can be caused by liver cancer, which is a cause for concern. Likewise, the liver can also form cysts as a result of parasitic infection. If a liver cyst is identified, followup exams and tests will usually be recommended to learn more about the cyst. These exams are conducted to confirm that the cyst is benign, or to diagnose a malignant cyst so that steps can be taken. Treatments for malignancies can include resection of the liver to remove the diseased area, along with medications which are used to manage to attempt to eliminate the cause of the liver cyst.

Hepatic cysts, as they are sometimes known, may call for treatment from a specialist who works specifically with liver diseases. Some patients find it helpful to see several care providers or to assemble a medical team to make sure that they get the best information and treatment for a liver cyst.

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Discuss this Article

anon332855
Post 6

I have a 14cc liver cyst and multiple smaller ones, but nobody is sure as to the character of the cysts. Is it safe to fly while waiting on a biopsy?

anon281256
Post 5

I found out about my liver cyst a year ago. It's as big as 21cc. My doctor gave me no medication but instead adopted the wait-and-see method. After a year, I had another ultrasound to follow-up on the growth of my cyst. It has become bigger now and measures at 25cc.

What are the concerns I should be aware of? And what advice would you give?

anon201715
Post 4

I have several liver cysts, but one is large, (about the size of my fist). how large should they get before I should have them removed? I am very uncomfortable with feeling full or like I am pregnant. Any advice?

CopperPipe
Post 3

@Littleman -- There are actually several liver cyst causes besides cancer or fetal development.

As you mentioned, one is hepatic fibrosis.

Hepatic fibrosis is basically the formation of excessive scar tissue on the liver, which can cause cysts.

It is a congenital condition, and in some cases can be fatal if the scarring and cysts become too numerous.

However, there are treatments for it, including antibiotics, decompressing the bile ducts, and removing any heavy metals from the body.

LittleMan
Post 2

What are some of the other causes of liver cysts, other than cancer or fetal abnormalities?

I had heard of something called hepatic fibrosis in connection with liver cysts, but wasn't sure --- does anybody know?

gregg1956
Post 1

If a person is lucky enough to catch a liver cyst before it becomes too serious, surgeons can oftentimes remove it.

Liver cyst surgery is usually laparoscopic, where the surgeon makes a small cut and then removes the cyst with an instrument, rather than making a large incision, where the surgeon can see the cyst as he or she is removing it.

However, like any surgery, liver cyst surgery is a serious intrusion on the body, and has it's risks and side effects, and anybody looking at having one should do their homework beforehand.

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