Liver cysts, which are also called hepatic cysts, are abnormal thin sac-like structures in the liver. These are categorized into simple cysts, multiple cysts, hydatid cysts, and neoplastic cysts. These could be asymptomatic or symptomatic. In a majority of cases, where the cysts are asymptomatic, the cystic lesions are incidentally diagnosed during routine medical checkups. However, large cysts could give rise to swelling or pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen. Since benign hepatic cysts don't interfere with the functioning of the liver, these don't require any extensive treatment. However, treatment is essential for large-sized infected cysts.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Since benign cysts are basically asymptomatic, these are not really a cause of great concern. However, medication and surgical intervention is generally needed if a person is diagnosed with malignant or multiple cysts. Since pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen is likely to be caused due to formation of the large cysts, those suffering from abdominal pain must get themselves medically examined.
» Doctors generally conduct imaging procedures such as CT (Computed Tomography) scan or an ultrasound in order to make a diagnosis. A sample of fluid from the cysts is collected to perform a biopsy.
» Surgical removal of cysts is needed if the cyst is causing bile obstruction. The fluid is drained from the cyst. This helps in reducing the size of the cyst. This procedure involves insertion of a needle followed by aspiration of the fluid.
» Though drainage of the fluid reduces the size of the cysts, fluid could fill up the cysts again. In order to prevent this, doctors generally inject a sclerosant.
» The use of a sclerosing agent is also employed in another technique used for liver cyst treatment. This method is called laparoscopic deroofing. Laparoscopic deroofing of the cyst wall is performed by using a laparoscope, which is a flexible fiber optic tube with a tiny camera and a light on the end. A laparoscope is inserted into the abdomen through a small cut in the skin. A major portion of the cyst roof is then removed. This procedure also helps in preventing the cyst from getting filled with the fluid. If the cyst is malignant, doctors perform the resection of the liver and remove the affected area. Medication will also be prescribed to treat the underlying cause.
Causes and Symptoms
The exact cause of simple cysts is not known, but these are believed to be congenital. These are usually asymptomatic. Symptoms such as pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen and/or bloating could arise in case of large cysts. In rare cases, the affected individual may develop jaundice owing to the blockage of bile duct.
Multiple cysts are often observed in people diagnosed with polycystic liver disease (PLD). This is an inherited condition. If anyone in the family has been diagnosed with this condition, the family members are at a risk of developing this condition. Liver cysts have also been observed in people diagnosed with polycystic kidney disease (PKD). PLD could occur alone or develop in people suffering from autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease.
Congenital hepatic fibrosis is a rare autosomal recessive disease that could cause cystic lesions on the liver. It could occur alone, or may develop in patients suffering from polycystic kidney disease. Caroli's disease could also cause abscesses in the liver. This is a rare inherited condition that is characterized by distension of ducts that carry bile from the liver. A complex form of this disease is associated with PKD. Neoplastic cysts are masses that form due to abnormal growth of liver tissue. These could be benign or malignant.
Hydatid cysts are caused by the larva of the tapeworm called Echinococcus granulosus. Dogs are the definitive hosts. Humans are intermediate hosts. They can get infected by coming into contact with the infected animal or by handling dirt or soil that contains tapeworm eggs. Once these eggs enter the blood, these get lodged in the liver. This is followed by formation of hydatid cysts. Since these cysts are slow-growing, these may not cause symptoms for years. A hydatid cyst becomes symptomatic only when it is large enough to press against the adjacent organs. The patient could experience tenderness and pain in the abdomen, weakness or diarrhea. Intrabiliary rupture is another complication that could arise.
If the development of hepatic cysts is hampering the liver function, it is surely a matter of grave concern. If left untreated, these cysts can get infected. Bile duct obstruction, bleeding into the cyst, liver enlargement or jaundice are complications that may occur in absence of medical treatment. People who seem to be experiencing the aforementioned symptoms need to get themselves medically examined. The earlier the diagnosis, the better would be the chances of treating this condition.
Disclaimer: This HealthHearty article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.