The liver is one of the most fascinating organs in our body. It has the ability to produce proteins, detoxify toxins produced by the body or ingested, and help process food products. The liver also has a great capacity to regenerate. It is, therefore, difficult for the liver to be irreversibly damaged unless through injurious substances consumed over a long period of time.
Liver lesions are a group of cells that grow abnormally within a background of normal cells. The term “liver lesions” is quite ambiguous and can be caused by a tumor, a cyst or any abnormal growth unrelated to the liver. Differentiating types of liver lesions is essential to rule out malignant tumors and suggest management. Liver lesions can be left alone or may need emergency surgery. This distinction can seem simple or straightforward, but it usually needs extensive investigations including lab tests and imaging studies. The general public should have a basic knowledge of the conditions that can cause the liver to enlarge to avoid hysteria and correct misconceptions regarding such conditions.
How common are liver lesions?
Liver lesions as a whole occur in more than 30% of people. This high incidence points out that most of those lesions are benign and need no interventions. In fact, most cases of liver lesions are discovered accidentally through an ultrasound or a CT scan done for another cause. Also, most patients with liver lesions have no symptoms. If your doctor finds a certain type of lesions that they are sure are benign, they may not suggest any course of action and leaving it as it is might be the best choice.
Generally, the most common type of liver lesions are benign liver hemangiomas. They are an abnormal growth of blood vessels within the liver which appears as a collection of blood within a cavity, like a cyst. They are usually small and occur in up to 20% of humans. The second most common cause are focal nodular hyperplasia which occurs in about 5% of humans. Other lesions that may occur include liver adenoma, liver cysts and liver cancer. Liver cancer is very uncommon to be found accidentally with a normal liver, but your doctor will confirm that any liver lesions are benign before proceeding to suggest management.