What are Liver Cysts? A cyst is the medical term used to describe a space of roundish or saclike shape in some part of the body. It may be empty or contain watery or mucus types of fluid. It is not uncommon to find one or several small cysts in the liver when a patient has an ultrasound scan or CAT scan of the abdomen for some reason. The vast majority of these cysts are found by chance as they do not produce any symptoms.
These “simple cysts” usually arise because a small area of liver cells die or degenerate. The most common cause is advancing years and poor diet and lifestyle. Sometimes these cysts can be full of “fatty material” in those with a fatty liver. These cysts do not represent liver disease because the liver, being such a huge organ, has plenty of other areas containing healthy cells to enable liver function to remain normal.
The symptoms associated with liver cysts include upper abdominal fullness, discomfort, or pain. A small number of patients bleed into the cyst, which causes sudden and severe right upper quadrant and shoulder pain. The bleeding stops on its own, and the pain then improves over the next several days. Liver cysts do not impair the liver’s ability to function.
Simple liver cysts are always benign. The only patients who require treatment for a liver cyst(s) are those who develop symptoms. Simply removing the fluid from the cyst with a needle is not effective because the cyst fills up again within several days. The best treatment is to remove a large portion of the cyst wall. This surgical procedure can usually be done through the laparoscope, which requires only 2-3 small incisions and an overnight stay in the hospital. Most patients recover fully within 2 weeks.