What is a liver cyst?
Liver cysts are fluid-filled sacs of a mass of cells, which are benign (non-cancerous) and grow on the liver.
More often than not, they do not require treatment and do not affect the function of the liver. If the liver cyst becomes large, you may experience pain and other symptoms, such as abdominal pain, which will pass by itself. In rare cases, surgery may be required to drain the cyst.
What causes a liver cyst?
The cause of a liver cyst is unknown, however, they may be the result of a malformation present at birth whilst they were developing in the womb. Liver cysts can also occur at any time in adults even if they have been present yet undetected since birth.
There is a link between a liver cyst and echinococcus, which is a tapeworm infection. Echinococcus can be found in farm animals and you can become contaminated if you ingest contaminated food.
Polycystic liver disease (PLD) is another condition that can lead to liver cyst.
What are the symptoms of liver cyst?
As it can remain asymptomatic, a liver cyst may go undiagnosed for years. When the cyst is enlarged, people might have:
- Abdominal bloating
- A distended or protruding stomach
- Pain in the upper right section of the stomach
How is liver cyst diagnosed?
If you visit your doctor about abdominal pain, they will order an imaging test, such as an MRI, ultrasound or a CT scan of your stomach. If they suspect that it is a parasite, they will organise for you to have a blood test.
How is liver cyst treated?
If your liver cyst is causing you problems, your doctor will insert a needle into your abdomen and surgically drain the fluid. The cyst may refill with fluid again in the future and in order to avoid recurrence, your doctor may surgically remove the cyst using a procedure called a laparoscopy.
You may be prescribed antibiotics for parasite treatment.