What is a Benign Liver Cyst?

 In Other Conditions

Benign (non-cancerous) liver cysts are fluid-filled sacs in the liver. They can be only a few millimeters in size or very large. The image below shows a benign liver cyst found on MRI.

Why does it happen?

Simple liver cysts are very common occurring in approximately 2-7% of the population. It is not entirely understood why they develop.

What are possible symptoms?

Most simple cysts will not cause any symptoms. If they are large enough someone may experience abdominal discomfort, pain or nausea.

Who is most likely to develop them?

  1. Women are at a higher risk
  2. People with certain diseases such as polycystic liver disease, autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, or von Hippel Lindau disease.

Potential complications?

  1. Complications are very rare. Large cysts may cause shrinking of the liver tissue around it and in very rare cases hemorrhage, infection, rupture or obstruction.

What are possible treatments?

  1. In the vast majority of cases, no treatment is required. However, if a cyst is greater than or equal to 4cm, an ultrasound three months after diagnosis is advised then again at 6-12 months to ensure stability of size. Additional monitoring is not required if the cyst does not enlarge over 2-3 years.
  2. People with symptoms will need to follow up with a primary care provider to determine the appropriate treatment for them.

Where can I get more information?

For additional information, please seek further guidance from your primary care provider.


Regev, A. & Reddy, K. R. (2017). Diagnosis and management of cystic lesions of the liver. In S. Chopra & K. M. Robson (Eds.), UptoDate. Available from: https://www.uptodate.com/contents/diagnosis-and-management-of-cystic-lesions-of-the-liver?search=liver%20cyst&source=search_result&selectedTitle=1~112&usage_type=default&display_rank=1

MayoClinic. (2015). Liver cysts: A cause of abdominal pain? Available from: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/liver-problems/expert-answers/liver-cysts/faq-20058440

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