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Open Access Research article

Clinical symptoms and sonographic follow-up after surgical treatment of nonparasitic liver cysts

Hubert Scheuerlein*, Falk Rauchfuss, Julia Franke, Karin Jandt, Yves Dittmar, Gudrun Trebing and Utz Settmacher

Author Affiliations

Department of General, Visceral and Vascular Surgery, University Hospital Jena, Erlanger Allee 101, 07747 Jena, Germany

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BMC Surgery 2013, 13:42  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-13-42

Published: 30 September 2013



The optimal treatment of nonparasitic liver cysts is still a topic of debate. Only symptomatic cysts are being considered as requiring treatment. Aim of this study is to evaluate our experience with this disease over the past ten years with a structured follow-up program.


From January 2000 to August 2010, 56 consecutive patients with nonparasitic liver cysts were treated at our institution. We assessed morbidity, recurrence and complication rates, quality of life as well as pre- and post-operative sonographic status of the cysts and course of clinical symptoms.


In 84% of the patients surgery was started as a laparoscopic procedure. Conversion rate was 6.4%. Average diameter of deroofed cysts was 12 cm. Overall complication rate was 16% and overall recurrence rate 28.3% (8.7% recurrences at the surgical site, 19.6% new or enlarged cysts). One half of the patients were symptom-free after surgery and the other half had at least one persisting symptom post-operatively. In one half of these patients with persisting symptoms, symptoms were ameliorated by surgery. In the other half of patients the number of symptoms increased after surgery. Two thirds of the overall patients reported their post-operative health as being good or very good.


Surgical deroofing is the most effective treatment option for symptomatic liver cysts. Half of our patient population retained at least one symptom from a group of more than ten abdominal symptoms.

Only the minority of these cases may be attributed to true recurrence, de-novo cysts or growing pre-existing cysts. The analysis of our cases suggests that the persistent symptoms in our patients may in part be due to the fact that the association between clinical complaints and the liver cysts was not sufficiently established. A more rigid patient selection should be implemented in order to achieve better results from the treatment of cysts. Because even large cysts are frequently asymptomatic, patient selection should not primarily be based on the cyst size only. The decision should be based strictly on the correlation between cyst / cyst location and symptoms / clinical complaints. In our opinion, further diagnostic procedures may be necessary in individual cases to clarify such a correlation.