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.