Approach to Cystic Lesions in the Abdomen and Pelvis, with Radiologic-Pathologic Correlation

Radiographics. 2021 Sep-Oct;41(5):1368-1386. doi: 10.1148/rg.2021200207.


Cystic lesions found in and around the peritoneal cavity can often be challenging to diagnose owing to significant overlap in imaging appearance between the different entities. When the cystic lesion can be recognized to arise from one of the solid abdominal organs, the differential considerations can be more straightforward; however, many cystic lesions, particularly when large, cannot be clearly associated with one of the solid organs. Cystic lesions arising from the mesentery and peritoneum are less commonly encountered and can be caused by relatively rare entities or by a variant appearance of less-rare entities. The authors provide an overview of the classification of cystic and cystic-appearing lesions and the basic imaging principles in evaluating them, followed by a summary of the clinical, radiologic, and pathologic features of various cystic and cystic-appearing lesions found in and around the peritoneal cavity, organized by site of origin. Emphasis is given to lesions arising from the mesentery, peritoneum, or gastrointestinal tract. Cystic lesions arising from the liver, spleen, gallbladder, pancreas, urachus, adnexa, or soft tissue are briefly discussed and illustrated with cases to demonstrate the overlap in imaging appearance with mesenteric and peritoneal cystic lesions. When approaching a cystic lesion, the key imaging features to assess include cyst content, locularity, wall thickness, and presence of internal septa, solid components, calcifications, or any associated enhancement. While definitive diagnosis is not always possible with imaging, careful assessment of the imaging appearance, location, and relationship to adjacent structures can help narrow the differential diagnosis. Online supplemental material is available for this article. ©RSNA, 2021.

MeSH terms

  • Abdominal Cavity*
  • Cysts*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Mesentery
  • Pelvis
  • Peritoneum