liver cysts (simple)

Last reviewed 01/2018

Cystic liver lesions are often detected during ultrasonography of the abdomen. 95% of cysts are simple cysts the majority of which are isolated congenital abnormalities (1).

Simple cysts may be multiple.

Multiple cysts in association with multiple renal cysts suggests the diagnosis of adult polycystic kidney disease.

Thick-walled cysts or those with septae, nodules or echogenic contents are a cause for concern; lesions with this appearance include:

  • cystic tumours:
    • hepatic cystadenoma
    • hepatic cystadenocarcinoma

  • infective cysts:
    • hydatid cysts
    • liver abscess

  • cystic dilatations of the bile ducts (Caroli's disease)


  • 1) Beckingham, IJ, Krige, JEJ (2001). Liver tumours. BMJ, 322,477-80.