Liver Cysts

Institutes & Services > Surgical Institute > HPB Surgery

What is the Liver?

The liver is one of the largest organs in your body and lies in the upper right-hand side of your abdomen underneath your ribs. It has several very important functions including the manufacturing of proteins, the removal of toxins from your blood, aiding in metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates and the secretion of bile, which helps digest foods.

What is a Liver Cyst?

Occasionally the liver can develop large fluid collections known as cysts. The cause of liver cysts is unknown. Most of the time, the fluid within the cyst is similar to water. Liver cysts are not cancerous and usually are not symptomatic. When patients do have symptoms, the symptoms are usually related to the size of the cyst. Very large cysts can push on other organs such as the stomach, causing a feeling of fullness, or the bile duct, causing yellowing of the skin known as jaundice.

How are Liver Cysts Treated?

Liver cysts do not require treatment unless they are symptomatic or increasing in size.

Surgery for Liver Cysts

Surgery for liver cysts involves removing the thin wall that lines the outside of the cyst. This is called a fenestration procedure. This allows the cyst to drain into the abdomen. The inside of the cyst that is left behind is then cauterized so that it does not drain as much fluid. What minimal drainage does persist is easily absorbed by the body and removed.

How is a Liver Cyst Fenestration Performed?

Most liver cyst fenestrations can be performed in a minimally invasive fashion through laparoscopic or robotic surgical techniques. This involves making a few small incisions in various locations around the abdomen. We then use a small video camera to visualize the surface of the liver.

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