Liver Cysts | Digestive Health Program | Loyola Medicine

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Liver Cysts

Overview and Facts about Liver Cysts

Liver cysts are abnormal growths on the liver that occur in about five percent of the population. They are fluid-filled cavities or sacs that are non-cancerous. Luckily, they don’t have an impact on liver function, so doctors don’t typically treat liver cysts unless they are causing symptoms. Generally, people only develop one cyst, but sometimes more than one develops.

Symptoms and Signs of Liver Cysts

Only five percent of people with liver cysts ever develop symptoms, so you will probably only know you have them if they grow big enough to cause problems. Some of these symptoms might affect your digestive health and could include:

  • A feeling of fullness in your abdomen
  • A lump on the outside of your stomach
  • Bloating on the right side of the stomach
  • Pain on the right side of the stomach
  • Sharp and sudden pain if your cyst starts bleeding

Causes and Risk Factors of Liver Cysts

The most common cause of a liver cyst is a malformation of the bile ducts. This is present from birth, although you might not develop liver cysts until you are older.

Liver cysts are also commonly associated with:

Tests and Diagnosis of Liver Cysts

If your doctor suspects you may have a liver cyst, the first step will be to order a CT scan or ultrasound of your abdomen. This will give your doctor a clear picture of your liver and will let them see the extent of the cyst. This is usually enough to tell the difference between a cyst or other mass on the liver. The doctor may also perform a blood test to see if your cyst may have been caused by a parasite.

Treatment and Care for Liver Cysts

Since a liver cyst typically doesn’t cause problems, doctors don’t provide treatment unless the symptoms are bothering you. Some of the treatment options include:

  • Antibiotics to eliminate the infection if you have a parasite
  • Laparoscopic surgery to remove part or of all of the cyst
  • Using a needle to remove fluid from the cyst (though unfortunately, this is a temporary solution, as the cyst is likely to refill)