Medical Q&As

Liver cyst - need treatment?

What is a cyst in the liver and does it require treatment?

A hepatic or liver cyst is a cavity within the liver that may be fluid filled or empty. They may be single or multiple and are usually detected as incidental findings during the course of medical investigations. In the majority of cases the condition is not harmful and usually does not need treatment. Liver cysts are usually symptom less. However, if they are very large they can cause abdominal pain, obstruction of the bile ducts or even infection within the bile ducts. Most cysts occur for no known reason and some are present at the time of birth. Such cysts could remain undetected until adulthood. In a minority of cases a hepatic cyst can occur as a consequence of other disease such as polycystic kidney disease, congenital hepatic fibrosis, infection with the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosa (usually referred to as a hydatid cyst) and Caroli disease, which was the subject of a previous Ask the Doctor question It is estimated that as many as 50% of people with polycystic kidney disease also have cysts in the liver. If a liver cyst causes significant symptoms it can be surgically removed but as indicated earlier most liver cysts do not need treatment.