What causes liver cysts in humans

Liver cyst

What are liver cysts?

Liver cysts are small cavities that form on or in the liver and are filled with fluid. The dysontogenetic liver cysts, i.e. those that have arisen in the womb as a result of a developmental disorder, form from enlarged bile ducts that have given up their function and can increase in size as the disease progresses.

Causes of Liver Cysts

The main cause of the formation of liver cysts is ADPKD, a hereditary disease in which cysts develop in the foreground on the kidneys. This is accompanied by cysts on the liver. Liver cysts can also be caused by an infection with the tapeworm Echinococcus granulosus, whose larvae can be transmitted to us humans via dogs.

The symptoms: how do you notice a liver cyst?

How liver cysts express themselves in the body depends on their number and size. Smaller cysts are not noticed at first. However, if they increase in size and quantity, they also take up more space in the body and the enlarged liver begins to displace surrounding organs. This usually leads to a feeling of pressure and fullness in the patient, as well as restrictions and pain in everyday movements such as bending over or sitting. As the disease progresses, nausea, back pain and an increase in the size of the abdomen can also occur.

Even the smaller, actually symptom-free cysts can lead to sudden, severe abdominal pain due to bleeding or ruptures (= cracks).

In general, the larger the cyst, the greater the likelihood that a complication will occur.

Diagnosis: how are liver cysts diagnosed?

Sonography (= ultrasound examination) is usually used as an examination method. It is available everywhere and is well suited for keeping an eye on the course of the cyst, so that it can be quickly identified if a cyst develops problematically. In order to obtain a more precise picture, a CT or MRT can also be made.

Liver cyst treatment and surgery

In principle, only those patients who have limitations due to the liver cysts and who show symptoms are treated. The aim of the therapy is that these symptoms are eliminated and no longer occur in the future.

A partial resection of the liver can be performed as a measure, for example. The parts of the liver affected by cysts are removed and relief is created. This therapy option is only available if there is still enough healthy liver tissue. Another measure is fenestration, during which the cysts are opened. This is done laparoscopically, so it only needs small skin incisions and is very minimally invasive. This allows multiple cysts to be removed in just one operation. The last therapeutic measure is liver transplantation. It is the only way to cure the disease. Conservative you can also take certain medications, the so-called somatostatin analogs. They cause less fluid to be produced in the cysts, but are costly over a long period of time.

What should be considered with liver cysts?

By and large, the liver cysts are a benign disease. There is no increased risk that the cysts will develop into a tumor. The liver can also do its job in the body despite the cysts and is not affected by them. Only the increased space requirement that the liver then has can become problematic and lead to the complications mentioned.

Which doctors and clinics are specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of liver cysts?

The specialty that deals with diseases of the liver such as liver cysts and their treatments is visceral surgery. In addition, the diagnosis can also be made by a gastroenterologist who deals with the gastrointestinal tract.


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“Practice of Hepatology” - Springer Verlag, 2016, ed. Michael P. Manns and Sabine Schneidewind