Liver Abscesses and Cysts

An abscess is a pocket of infective material caused by either ingestion of a foreign parasite which is usually associated geographically with parts of Asia and Africa and living or visiting areas of poor hygiene; or infection associated with malignancy, surgery, trauma, other diseases most notably diabetes and bowel disorders, or a previous endoscopic procedure. Symptoms are associated with the fact that it is an infective process and temperatures with night sweats and rigors, feeling sick, having no appetite and weight loss, are all part of this process. The fact that an abscess is an inflammatory process taking up liver volume causes pain in the right upper part of the abdomen and this can impact upon breathing, causing a dry cough and pain when a breath in is taken. The consequences of a liver abscess are dependent upon what has caused it and for the most part treatment is based upon antibiotic cover and drainage of the infected material.

Liver cysts are pockets of fluid or semi solid material that occur for a variety of reasons. They can be linked to a chronic cause of liver disease, or be caused by parasite infection or simply grow for no discernable reason. Simple water filled cysts and blood filled cysts require little treatment and if found tend to be incidental to diagnosis. However, there are cysts caused by parasites, the most common of which is known as hydatid disease. Hydatid disease is a parasite found in cattle and sheep which is passed via dogs and cats to humans through direct contact (usually by contact with stroking their coats or removal of waste products). There may be no symptoms of infection for many years as these cysts are usually slow to grow and surround themselves off from the area by means of a layer of tissue that stops them from starting an inflammatory or infective reaction in the liver. They do however grow and this eventually causes side effects associated with pressure increasing inside the liver, namely right upper abdominal pain, temperatures and sometimes pain or discomfort when taking a breath in. The main problems arise when either the growth breaks open or some of the substance inside the cyst leaks out and then high temperatures, nausea, weight loss and sometimes jaundice can occur. It is very important to be treated properly and have the cysts drained and the correct antibiotic cover however this does not necessarily stop other cysts forming and therefore once hydatid disease has been diagnosed close observation of liver function and further cyst formation must be maintained.