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Benign liver cysts and their treatment

Small liver cysts may not cause any problems, however if you have a larger cyst or one that is causing symptoms they can be treated using several techniques:

  • Needle aspiration: this involves inserting a needle inside the cyst to drain the fluid. The results may be temporary as the cyst can refill with fluid.
  • Using a sclerosant: after draining the cyst, a fluid such as alcohol is introduced into the empty cyst to make the walls stick together. This can prevent the cyst refilling with fluid.
  • Surgery: an operation known as deroofing or fenestration, is done using a keyhole surgery technique to remove the membrane and contents of the cyst. It is a fairly short procedure and you don’t normally need to stay in hospital overnight. This usually eliminates the liver cyst (90% of cysts do not come back).
  • Medication: if your cyst is caused by a tapeworm (this is called hydatid disease), the drug albendazole will kill the tapeworm and allow the cysts to resolve.

Trade names quoted are given as examples only of the drug types described, alternatives may be available.

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