Liver Cysts, Treatment & Surgery

What is a liver cyst?

Liver cysts are small fluid filled sacs that form in the liver. A person can have a single or multiple liver cysts. Liver cysts usually present no symptoms or require treatment, rarely impairing the liver’s ability to function, and occur in approximately 5 percent of people. Liver cysts can cause pain in the abdomen if they become large enough.

Although liver cysts are usually benign, around 5 percent of liver cysts are cystic tumours that, although rare, can become malignant.

Liver Cyst Symptoms

Most liver cysts will not cause any signs or symptoms. They are more likely to occur in people aged 60+ and can include:

  • Abdominal pain or discomfort (particularly in the upper right side)
  • The abdomen feeling full or bloated (again particularly in the upper right side)
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Heartburn (reflux)
  • Shoulder pain

A patient will usually only present with these symptoms if a cyst starts bleeding. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms and are concerned, you should make an appointment with your doctor.

Liver Cyst Diagnosis

Liver cysts are usually only discovered when undergoing imaging tests for another condition, as they are often symptomless. If your doctor suspects you may have liver cysts following a physical exam and a series of tests, you will likely be referred to a specialist who will perform the some or all of the following diagnostic tests:

  • Blood tests
  • CT Scan
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Liver Cyst Treatment

Most liver cysts don’t present symptoms or affect the function of the liver, so do not require treatment. However if the liver cysts are presenting a problem, such as causing pain, the most effective liver cyst treatment is surgery to decompress the liver cyst permanently. Liver cysts can be drained by inserting a fine needle through the abdomen, but this is usually only a temporary treatment as these cysts will fill with fluid again over time.
Liver cysts can be removed using minimally invasive surgery. A/Prof Pilgrim will make two or three small incisions in the abdomen to laparoscopically unroof the cysts, which are then unlikely to return.
If you have liver cysts and are concerned or would like to discuss treatment options please call our practice on (03) 9509 4811 to make an appointment, or you can book an appointment online