Cystic focal liver lesions in the adult: differential CT and MR imaging features

Radiographics. 2001 Jul-Aug;21(4):895-910. doi: 10.1148/radiographics.21.4.g01jl16895.


Cystic lesions of the liver in the adult can be classified as developmental, neoplastic, inflammatory, or miscellaneous. Although in some cases it is difficult to distinguish these entities with imaging criteria alone, certain cystic focal liver lesions have classic computed tomographic (CT) and magnetic resonance (MR) imaging features, which are important for the radiologist to understand and recognize. Lesions with such features include simple (bile duct) cyst, autosomal dominant polycystic liver disease, biliary hamartoma, Caroli disease, undifferentiated (embryonal) sarcoma, biliary cystadenoma and cystadenocarcinoma, cystic subtypes of primary liver neoplasms, cystic metastases, pyogenic and amebic abscesses, intrahepatic hydatid cyst, extrapancreatic pseudocyst, and intrahepatic hematoma and biloma. Specific CT and MR imaging findings that are important to recognize are the size of the lesion; the presence and thickness of a wall; the presence of septa, calcifications, or internal nodules; the enhancement pattern; the MR cholangiographic appearance; and the signal intensity spectrum. In addition, access to critical clinical information remains extremely important. The most important clinical parameters defined include age and gender, clinical history, and symptoms. An understanding of the classic CT and MR imaging appearances of cystic focal liver lesions will allow more definitive diagnosis and shorten the diagnostic work-up.

MeSH terms

  • Cysts / diagnosis*
  • Cysts / pathology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Echinococcosis, Hepatic / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Liver Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Liver Diseases / pathology
  • Liver Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Liver Neoplasms / secondary
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*