What are Liver Cysts?

Liver cysts

are enclosed sac like structures which have fluids or semi solid material in them.

Approximately 5% of the population gets affected by them

. Generally, they do not share any tissue of the organ they are located on. They can appear singly or in a cluster. The latter would give rise to a poly cystic liver condition. Their contours (measurement along the outline of the cyst) could range anywhere from 2cm to 20cm.

What are the Types of Liver Cysts?

There are a few varieties of cysts on the liver which are as follows:

  • Simple cyst

    – This is when an individual is affected by the simplest of these structures. A single thin walled fluid filled sac appears on the liver. It is mostly without any symptoms. It is mostly benign and is harmless.

  • Multiple Cysts (Poly cystic condition)

    – Poly cystic Liver disease, as the name suggests is when the liver is affected by multiple of these sacs giving it the appearance of a bunch of grapes. This disease is mostly congenital (from birth) and can give rise to severe symptoms of abdominal pain and discomfort. It might need surgical intervention. If untreated, it could become fatal and cause kidney failure.

  • Parasitic or Hyatid (Echinococcal) Cysts

    – Echinococcus Granulosus is a parasite which is capable of causing them. This parasite is generally spread by dog tapeworm. The parasite gets into the food chain and once inside the human body the eggs turn into larvae. The larvae make it through the stomach lining and finally reach the liver. Here it results in the formation of a cyst. They are without any symptoms and grow about 2-3cms ever year. If ruptured, it could cause obstruction and swelling of the bile duct.

  • Cystic Tumors

    – These are often confused to be cysts. Rather, they are cancerous growth on the liver. Their symptoms are the same like that of simple cysts and generally absent in the beginning phase. CT scans and ultrasound of the abdomen can detect them. They require complete surgical removal and the recurrence is generally low.

  • Abscesses

    – Abscesses are pus filled mass appearing inside or on the liver surface. They are the result of any internal infection following appendix removal or any other intestinal infection. The condition can get worse and may need surgery followed by treatment with antibiotics.

  • Hepatic Fibrosis

    – It is a congenital defect where the liver produces scar tissues which look similar to any healed wound. A lot of times this is associated with a disease called Hemochromatosis in which excess iron is absorbed in the body and gets accumulated in the tissues of the liver. This condition if untreated could become fatal. It is generally treated with therapies to reduce iron in the body, antibiotics and reduction of the resultant pressure on the bile ducts.

What are the Causes Behind the Appearance of these Structures?

  • Infections
  • Malignant and cancerous growth
  • Tumors
  • Congenital or Birth defects
  • Chronic swelling of the gastrointestinal tract
  • Internal blockages of ducts( structure which helps in transfer of air between organs), vessels and nodes(glands)

What are the Symptoms of this Disease?

Cysts on the liver are generally without any symptoms for a long time. Once they start measuring more than 7 cm along the outline, symptoms start appearing. The symptoms are generally as follows:

  • Abdominal pain.
  • Swollen abdomen along with severe bloating and discomfort.
  • Enlargement of liver.
  • Bile duct obstruction.
  • Infectious bile duct.
  • Swelling of the bile ducts.
  • Gallstones.
  • Impaired digestion.
  • Nausea.
  • Body pain.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • Treatment of Liver Cysts

    • It is said that these can exist in the body without inhibiting liver function at all for a long time. In that case no treatment is absolutely necessary. It becomes alarming when they start to grow in size.
    • Surgical removal, followed by antibiotics is a common method of treating especially larger ones.
    • A procedure known as PAIR is used. PAIR stands for Puncture, Aspiration, Injection and Reaspiration. In this method, a needle is inserted into the cyst with the help of ultrasound images and it is punctured. The fluid inside them is drawn out with an injection and sent for further diagnostic tests. Ethanol or hypertonic saline solution is injected back to restore the structure.
    • In cases of large cysts, the same procedure is performed along with an extra step which is Drainage. It is known as PAIRD. A catheter is left in the structure to drain out the accumulating fluid continuously.

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