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Liver Cysts and Pain

Liver Cysts and Pain

Liver cysts are rarely a cause of medical concern. However, patients require timely treatment that involves draining of the cysts or removal of the same.
Ningthoujam Sandhyarani
Last Updated: Feb 8, 2018
Cysts resemble a sac in their structure, and they develop in the tissues of internal organs and other parts of the body. These cavities are named according to the location; for example, cysts occurring in the liver are called liver cysts, and kidney cysts are those present in the kidneys. As per medical data, cysts on the liver or hepatic cysts are reported in about 5 percent of the general population. However, not all patients manifest liver cysts and the pain associated with them. In fact, 95 percent of the patients have asymptomatic cysts in the liver.
What Causes Liver Cysts Along with Pain?
The exact cause of liver cysts is not known. They may be congenital (present at birth) or developed at a later stage. While majority of the patients have only one cyst having a thin outer wall, multiple cysts are diagnosed in some patients. In most cases, the cysts are filled with a clear fluid, or at times, they are nothing more than empty sacs. They are benign, and do not disturb liver function. Very rarely, cysts on the liver pose health risks, like malignancy and infections.
The cause for the pain that a person experiences is the abnormal growth of the cysts, forming larger sacs that disturb the adjacent tissues. If the pain is felt in the upper right abdomen and right shoulder, most probably it is due to spontaneous bleeding in the cysts. During this episode, patients complain of sharp abdominal pain. Bleeding ceases on its own after some time and eventually, pain intensity decreases. Other manifested symptoms include the following:
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Pain in the upper abdomen
  • Liver enlargement
  • Bile duct obstruction
  • Fullness of the abdomen
  • Abdominal distention
  • Internal bleeding
Treatment
Asymptotic liver cysts remain undiagnosed, as they show no significant medical signs. They are usually identified while performing imaging tests of the abdomen for some other reasons. For people with abdominal pain and a previous history of liver cysts, the doctor may perform an ultrasound and computed tomography of the abdomen. With these tests, the doctor can identify whether cysts on the liver are causing the pain symptoms or not.
With the diagnosis of the cysts, "Are liver cysts serious?" is one of the most common queries that lingers on every patient's mind. The answer to this question is both yes and no. Small, asymptomatic cystic growths are not serious, and require no therapeutic intervention. Nevertheless, if an individual complains of pain frequently, it is best to get the condition addressed by a trusted physician for prompt treatment.
The treatment approach for these fluid-filled bumps that cause abdominal pain is, draining of the fluid and surgical removal of the cystic growth. Aspiration of the fluid by using needle is not recommended, as the epithelial wall lining of the cystic bump continues to secrete fluid. So, within a few weeks to several months, the cysts will be refilled with fluid. If aspiration is performed, the doctor injects a sclerosant in the cysts to reduce refilling.
The most reliable treatment is surgical removal of the cysts along with affected tissues (if any). Performed by less invasive laparoscopy technique, the surgeon makes 2-3 small incisions in the abdomen to get access to the affected areas, and remove the epithelial wall. This therapeutic intervention is known as laparoscopic deroofing. With this method, the recurrence rate of the cystic growths and liver pain is low. If liver cysts occur with infection, antibiotic treatment is done along with surgery.
In alternative medicine, a specific diet is suggested to help shrink the cavities. However, the effectiveness of such a treatment strategy is doubtful. As the actual cause is not known, there are no preventive measures to avoid this condition. Once a patient is diagnosed with this liver problem, the doctor will suggest regular monitoring to check the growth of the cysts.