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What is the Treatment for Renal Cysts?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Renal cysts are typically fluid-filled sacs that develop in one or both kidneys. This can be due to disease processes such as polycystic kidney disease, although no cause for the formation of these cysts is found in some patients. These renal cysts are often referred to as simple cysts because they do not pose any cancer risks and are usually not medically dangerous. Occasionally, complex renal cysts may develop, requiring additional monitoring. Treatment options for cysts in the kidneys range from medical monitoring to surgical intervention.

Most renal cysts are small and do not cause any problems. In some cases, the cysts may grow quite large and begin to press against surrounding tissues, causing pain and tenderness. If the cyst leaks or ruptures, the patient may experience increased pain or even notice blood in the urine.

If the cysts are not causing any bothersome symptoms, treatment may consist of periodic medical monitoring. Tests such as CT scans or ultrasounds may be used on occasion to monitor the growth of the cysts. If symptoms begin to appear or if the cysts grow large, medical intervention may become necessary.

A procedure known as aspiration and sclerosis is often used to treat renal cysts. This is a minimally invasive surgical procedure and typically involves just an overnight stay in the hospital. The patient is completely sedated with general anesthesia, and a needle is inserted into the cyst to draw out the fluid, and the cyst is surgically reduced. It is important to note that the cyst may eventually fill back up with fluid, but pain relief can last for several months or years.

Occasionally, a procedure known as laparoscopic cyst decortication may be needed to treat these cysts. This type of surgery is primarily used when aspiration and sclerosis fails. In this procedure, a few small incisions are made in the abdominal wall, and the abdomen is filled with gas. The walls of the cyst are then cut out so that the cyst is completely removed and cannot re-form.

Complex renal cysts may contain other materials besides the fluid found in simple cysts. These cysts may require additional treatment methods. A biopsy may be performed to test for cancer, and additional medical tests may be ordered. In the most severe cases, the affected kidney may have to be removed in a surgical procedure known as a nephrectomy. Fortunately, many people are able to live full, active lives with only one healthy kidney.

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Discussion Comments

By lighth0se33 — On Nov 13, 2011

Because I have renal cysts, my kidneys are way bigger than normal ones. My kidneys are like big bullies, because they push the other organs around. So, sometimes when I have abdominal pain, I'm not sure what is hurting.

An intense, localized pain near my belly button is what led to my diagnosis. My doctor ordered an ultrasound to find the problem, and the technician found the renal cysts.

I have always had lumps that I thought were fat on either side of my body. Now, I think that they are just a result of my big kidneys pushing outward.

Once the doctor found out about my cysts, he told me that I needed to have an ultrasound every three years. My condition puts me at an increased risk of developing kidney cancer, so it's important that he monitor the situation.

By OeKc05 — On Nov 13, 2011

My mother has renal cysts, and hers caused her so much pain that she had to have the surgery to have them drained. She said that she had to be on pain medication for about a week after the procedure.

When the surgeon drains a cyst, this makes you feel the same as when one ruptures. My mother has had several rupture in her lifetime, and each time, she says that all she can do is lie down and take a pain pill. It makes her double over, and she can barely walk.

She knows that her cysts may one day fill back up with fluid. However, it had gotten to the point where she had to do something. She did not want to become dependent on pain medication every day just to be able to function, so the procedure was her best option.

By Oceana — On Nov 12, 2011

@wavy58 – That's good news about the drug. I didn't even know it existed.

I have the disease, also, but I didn't know I had it until I was 26. I started having abdominal pain so intense that I nearly vomited, and it lasted for three days.

My doctor did a CT scan, and that's when she found the kidney cysts. I had never heard of the disease, but I was relieved to find out that I wasn't about to die from anything.

I know that I may one day need a transplant, but since that new drug you're on may be available in a few years, perhaps I can get on it and extend the life of my kidneys. I'm in my early thirties, and I still have sufficient kidney function, so perhaps it won't be too late.

By wavy58 — On Nov 11, 2011

I have polycystic kidney disease. I am currently participating in a clinical trial for a drug that is supposed to keep new cysts from forming.

In the three years since I started taking the drug, I have not had much new cyst growth. The researchers do an MRI once a year to check on my kidneys, and so far, I've gotten good reports.

Every time I come in for a visit, the study leader asks me to rate my pain level. The only time I experience intense pain is when a cyst ruptures. Then, it feels like someone is stabbing me with a knife in the abdomen.

Since the drug helps control cyst growth, it also helps lessen the chances of rupture. As long as there's room in there for the cysts, the only way to rupture one is to do some sort of rough activity that jostles the kidneys around. I've been told not to play contact sports or ride a horse.

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