This site is targeted at medical and radiology professionals, contains user contributed content, and material that may be confusing to a lay audience. Use of this site implies acceptance of our Terms of Use.

Simple hepatic cyst

Simple hepatic cysts are common benign liver lesions and have no malignant potential. They can be diagnosed on ultrasound, CT, or MRI.

Epidemiology

Simple hepatic cysts are one of the commonest liver lesions, occurring in ~2-7% of the population 1-2. There may be a slight female predilection.

Clinical presentation

Hepatic cysts are typically discovered incidentally and are almost always asymptomatic.

Pathology

Simple hepatic cysts may be isolated or multiple and may vary from a few millimeters to several centimeters in diameter. Simple hepatic cysts are benign developmental lesions that do not communicate with the biliary tree 2. The current theory regarding the origin of true hepatic cysts is that they originate from hamartomatous tissue. On histopathological analysis, true hepatic cysts contain serous fluid and are lined by a nearly imperceptible wall consisting of cuboidal epithelium, identical to that of bile ducts, and a thin underlying rim of fibrous stroma 2.

Location

While they can occur anywhere in the liver, there may be a greater predilection towards the right lobe of the liver 3.

Associations

Certain diseases are associated with multiple hepatic cysts and include

Radiographic features

General imaging features

They are typically round or ovoid in shape and have well-defined margins.

Ultrasound
  • round or ovoid anechoic lesion (may be lobulated)
  • well-marginated with a thin or imperceptible wall and a clearly defined back wall
  • may show posterior acoustic enhancement, if large enough
  • a few septa may be possible, but no wall thickening
  • a small amount of layering debris is possible
  • no internal vascularity on colour Doppler
CT

On CT, a hepatic cyst demonstrates homogeneous hypoattenuation (water attenuation) around 0-10 HU. The wall is usually imperceptible, and the cyst does not enhance after intravenous administration of contrast material.

MRI

On MR imaging a hepatic cyst follows the signal intensity of water on all sequences:

  • T1: homogeneous very low signal intensity
  • T2: increased signal intensity, greater than other T2 hyperintense liver lesions (e.g. haemangioma)

In instances of intracystic haemorrhage, which is a rare complication in simple hepatic cysts, the signal intensity is high, with a fluid-fluid level on both T1- and T2-weighted images when mixed blood products are present 2.

A hepatic cyst does not enhance after administration of contrast. The cyst wall is very thin or even imperceptible 4.

Differential diagnosis

General imaging differential considerations include other cystic liver lesions, including:

On CT and T2 MRI images also consider:

On the LI-RADS classification system, a simple cyst is given a designation of LR1 or LR2.


Related articles

Liver and intrahepatic bile duct tumours
Ultrasound

Updating… Please wait.
Loadinganimation

Alert_accept

Error Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

Alert_accept Thank you for updating your details.