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Liver cysts are fluid-filled crevices or sacs in the liver. The majority of hepatic (liver) cysts are unremarkable and never produce symptoms, however in some cases, hepatic cysts may signal an underlying disease. Also, in certain cases, according to Michael Picco, M.D., enlargement of these fluid-filled sacs may result in right upper abdominal pain; moreover, complications may include an infection or obstruction of the bile duct. If such symptoms present in a patient, the cysts may need to be drained; removing the cyst also may be an option.


Hepatic cysts are known to occur as the result of a genetic etiology, that is, polycystic liver disease. Polycystic means there are multiple cysts, thus, some individuals experience many hepatic cysts. Additionally, polycystic liver disease may be associated with polycystic renal disease, where multiple cysts are present also in the kidneys (see Liver Cyst Image in Resources).


Cysts in the liver may manifest because of an infection from ingesting contaminated food or liquids that contain a parasitic worm, specifically, echinococcus granulosus. Echinococcus granulosus, or hydatid disease, is common where humans and animals, such as livestock, sheep or dogs, share a close environment. The cysts form from the eggs of this parasite and contain the larvae, which is specifically called hydatid cysts. This condition occurs infrequently in humans, but when it does, this parasitic infestation can severely damage the liver and other organs as well. Treatment is needed immediately.


It is possible that a neoplastic growth may be misinterpreted as being a cyst. However, whether the neoplasm is benign or malignant can be determined by biopsy, especially if some of the following symptoms are present: jaundice, abdominal pain, nausea and vomiting, dark-colored urine, unexplained loss of appetite with weight loss, and feeling bloated or full following a small portion of food.

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About the Author

A.M. Tacon

A.M. Tacon is an associate professor of health at Texas Tech University. Her research interests include psychosocial factors in cancer, complementary therapies and stress reduction in individuals with cancer. Dr. Tacon runs mindfulness-based stress reduction programs for women with breast cancer, which is based on various forms of mindfulness meditation.