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Biliary cyst
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Biliary cyst

Contributors: Michael W. Winter MD, Paritosh Prasad MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Biliary cysts are anomalies of the biliary tract characterized by abnormal cystic dilation in the biliary tree. There can be a single or multiple cysts, and they may involve extrahepatic ducts, intrahepatic ducts, or both. Often they are congenital, but some may be acquired.

Biliary cysts are rare and have an incidence of 1 in 100 000 in the Western world, although rates are higher in Asian populations with incidence as high as 1 in 1000 in specific populations. Almost two-thirds of cases are seen in Japan.

The majority of patients will present in childhood, before the age of 10 years. Choledochal cysts are more common in women (male:female ratio of approximately 3-4:1). They are associated with a variety of developmental anomalies, primarily abnormalities in the pancreaticobiliary junction or biliary, duodenal, or colonic atresia.

Common findings include a palpable abdominal mass, right upper quadrant abdominal pain, and jaundice. In many instances, choledochal cysts are asymptomatic. Approximately half of choledochal cysts are diagnosed before the patient is 10 years old, although they can be diagnosed at any age.

There are several types of biliary cysts, termed for their location and appearance.

Type I (50%-85% of cysts) – Segmental dilation of the extrahepatic bile duct.
  • Ia – cystic dilation of entire extrahepatic biliary tree sparing the intrahepatic tree
  • Ib – focal segmental dilation of the extrahepatic bile duct
  • Ic – smooth fusiform dilation of the entire extrahepatic bile duct
Type II – Diverticulum in the extrahepatic bile duct.
Type III – Extrahepatic bile duct dilation within the duodenal wall.
Type IV – Intrahepatic and extrahepatic duct cysts.
Type V – Intrahepatic dilation and cysts (Caroli disease).

Some cysts are benign, while others portend an increased malignant potential, particularly for cholangiocarcinoma. Cancer risk is highest in older patients with choledochal cysts and in type I and type IV cysts, but all types of choledochal cysts have been associated with malignancy. Cysts can also predispose patients to obstructive stones, cholangitis, bleeding, biliary perforation, volvulus, and intussusception.

Biliary cysts often go unrecognized unless symptomatic.


K83.5 – Biliary cyst

235924006 – Cyst of biliary tract

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Last Reviewed:12/27/2017
Last Updated:01/11/2022
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Biliary cyst
A medical illustration showing key findings of Biliary cyst : Abdominal pain, Jaundice, Abdominal mass, Hyperbilirubinemia, RUQ pain
Copyright © 2024 VisualDx®. All rights reserved.