Choledochal Cysts Symptoms & Causes

What does the liver do?

The liver is located in the upper right-hand portion of your child’s abdominal cavity, beneath the diaphragm and on top of the stomach, right kidney and intestines.

The liver consists of two main lobes, both of which are made up of thousands of lobules.

These lobules are connected to small ducts that connect with larger ducts to ultimately form the hepatic duct. The hepatic duct transports bile produced by the liver cells to the gallbladder and duodenum, which helps to break down fats, preparing them for further digestion and absorption.

All of the blood leaving the stomach and intestines passes through the liver. The liver processes this blood and breaks down the nutrients and drugs in the blood into forms that are easier to use for the rest of the body.

What are the most common varieties of these cysts?

There are five basic types and they’re classified by where they appear.

  • Type 1 — A cystic dilation of the extrahepatic bililary duct. This is the most common type, making up about half of all choledochal cysts.
  • Type 2 — An abnormal pouch or sac opening from the duct.
  • Type 3 —A cyst located within the duodenal wall.
  • Type 4 — Swellings of both the intrahepatic and extrahepatic biliary tracts.
  • Type 5 —Multiple intrahepatic cysts. This type of clustering of cysts is also known as Caroli's disease and is the least common type.

How common are choledochal cysts?

  • Choledochal cysts occur in between 1 and 100,000 and 1 in 150,000 people in Western countries but is much more common in Japan.
  • They are three to eight times more common in females than males.

What causes choledochal cysts?
The cause of these cysts is unknown, but researchers believe that their formation is due to an abnormal connection between the pancreatic and hepatic ducts.

This abnormal connection leads to a reflux of pancreatic juice into the biliary tract, which could be responsible for cyst formation.

What are the symptoms of choledochal cysts?

The following symptoms are usually experienced by an older child whose earlier diagnosis of this congenital anomaly may have been missed.