Gastrointestinal Cysts | Digestive Health Program | Loyola Medicine

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Gastrointestinal Cysts

Overview and Facts about Gastrointestinal Cysts

Gastrointestinal cysts are fluid sacs that may appear anywhere in the digestive tract or system. The digestive tract consists of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus. Gastrointestinal cysts, also known as enteric or intestinal duplication cysts, are most often seen in the ileum of the small intestine, esophagus, and stomach. They can be small and round or long and tubular. Gastrointestinal cysts are rare and often occur in families and can affect the digestive health of both children and adults.

Symptoms and Signs of Gastrointestinal Cysts

Symptoms of gastrointestinal cysts vary depending on the size, type, and location of the cyst(s). Some individuals may experience no symptoms. In general, cystic growth may obstruct or block the flow of food through the digestive system, which can lead to more apparent symptoms in affected individuals.

Individuals with gastrointestinal cysts may experience the following symptoms:

  • A tissue mass that can be seen or felt by hand or via medical imaging
  • Abdominal pain
  • Bowel blockage or obstruction
  • Feeling of fullness hours after eating
  • Hemorrhage or bleeding in the event of a cyst rupture or ulceration
  • Jaundice or yellowing of the skin in the event the cyst affects the liver through the gastrointestinal tract
  • Vomiting

Causes and Risk Factors of Gastrointestinal Cysts

Gastrointestinal cysts can affect individuals of all ages, including unborn fetuses and newborns. Most gastrointestinal cysts are discovered in children, during their first two years of life.

Other risk factors include:

  • Age (gastrointestinal cysts are often discovered before one year of age)
  • Family history of gastrointestinal cysts
  • Sex or gender (for example, rectal cysts in the large intestine are more common in females)

Tests and Diagnosis of Gastrointestinal Cysts

Endoscopic ultrasounds are mainly used to identify the presence of gastrointestinal cysts. In pregnant women, gastrointestinal cysts can be seen or identified in the fetus during a routine ultrasound.

Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scans are also an effective method to diagnose gastrointestinal cysts.

X-rays can identify gastrointestinal obstructions caused by cysts; however, x-rays are limited in their ability to detect and measure gastrointestinal cysts.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is also used to detect the presence of gastrointestinal cysts.

Treatment and Care for Gastrointestinal Cysts

Surgery is the most common and effective method to remove gastrointestinal cysts. In cases where cysts become infected, antibiotics may be administered to treat the infection. In children, however, surgical removal alone is safer than antibiotic treatment.