Liver cysts

Liver cysts are rounded collections of fluid within the liver, they are benign, very common and nearly always harmless. Very large cysts may become uncomfortable if they stretch the liver or press on adjacent organs such as the diaphragm, stomach or bowel. Massive cysts can reach diameters of 20-30 cm (8-12 inches) and contain several litres of fluid, cysts of this size may give a visible swelling in the abdomen (tummy) and be very uncomfortable, often associated with pressure symptoms which may include shortness of breath from pressure on the diaphragm.

A few people have rare polycystic conditions affecting the liver where the liver is full of hundreds of small and large cysts.  Sometimes these are associated with cysts in other organs such as the kidney.

If there has been haemorrhage (bleeding) or infection or inflammation in the cyst then the fluid inside it may become thickened and form strands of internal scar tissue, these can make the cyst look like a more complex lesion such as cystadenoma (see below). Appearances are even more hard to interpret if there has been infection in the cysts as well.

Patients with bad pressure symptoms from large cysts often benefit from keyhole surgery to drain and de-roof the cysts and improve their discomfort, this is usually a very effective treatment, particularly for patients with large solitary cysts.

For patients with large numbers of small cysts surgery is less effective and therefore surgery may not be advisable unless we think that we can effectively deal with a particularly dominant cyst or prominent cluster of cysts that appear likely to be contributing to your symptoms.

For patients with large numbers of small cysts surgery is less effective and therefore surgery may not be advisable unless we think that we can effectively deal with a particularly dominant cyst or prominent cluster of cysts that appear likely to be contributing to your symptoms.