Also known as hepatic cysts, liver cysts are believed to affect approximately five percent of individuals in the United States. The cysts are small sacs of fluid that form on the liver, and the majority of patients will have only a single cyst. Most liver cysts produce no symptoms and require no treatment. If symptoms do develop, these may include abdominal fullness or pain. If bleeding into the liver cyst occurs, patients could experience severe pain in the upper right quadrant of the abdomen, and this pain may radiate to the shoulder. Hepatic cysts cause no issues with liver function. In cases where treatment is necessary, doctors normally recommend removal of the cysts or cyst wall. Medications known as somatostatin analogs are currently being researched as a nonsurgical treatment option.
The major methods of diagnosis and treatment for liver cysts are outlined below.
Ultrasound scans are a primary method for detecting liver cysts. These painless scans use high-frequency sound waves to produce images, and there is no radiation involved. To create an ultrasound image of the liver, the sonographer will place a gel on the patient’s skin, and a transducer (wand) is then placed on the skin over the liver itself. Ultrasounds can be performed in clinics and hospitals, and they normally take around twenty to sixty minutes. Patients having an ultrasound of the liver may be asked to fast for a few hours before their appointment; this will help produce a clearer image. Individuals allergic to latex should tell the provider about this allergy so a non-latex cover can be used for the transducer. A few days after the scan is complete, a radiologist or other specialist will explain the results to the patient.
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