Home Logo

Abdominal Cysts

Cysts Q&A

If your baby develops an abdominal cyst while in the womb, it can be alarming. Dr. Mehra and team will closely monitor your baby during your pregnancy.  Dr. Mehra has unparalled expertise in minimally invasive procedures to treat all types of abdominal cysts.   

What are abdominal cysts?

Cysts are fluid-filled sacs of tissue that can vary in size, severity, location and symptoms. Fetal abdominal cysts develop in a baby’s abdomen (belly) before birth and may cause problems if they grow very large. Large cysts put pressure on nearby organs as the baby develops, causing complications such as:

  • Blockage in the digestive tract (tubes through which nutrients pass, from the mouth to the anus)
  • Torsion (twisting) of an organ, such as an ovary, which can cut off its blood supply
  • Excess amniotic fluid (protective liquid surrounding the baby in the womb)

Types of abdominal cysts

Babies can develop one or more cysts as they grow in the womb. The most common types of fetal abdominal cysts include:

  • Choledochal
    • Cysts that form in the bile ducts, which carry bile (a digestive fluid) from the liver to the gall bladder and small intestine
  • Duplication or gastrointestinal
    • Portions of extra tissue that form in the digestive tract anywhere from the esophagus to the intestines
  • Genitourinary
    • Cysts that form in the urinary tract, which includes the kidneys, ureters (tubes connecting the kidney and the bladder), the bladder and the urethra
  • Mesenteric
    • Cysts that form in the mesentery, a membrane surrounding the intestines that connects them to the abdominal wall
  • Ovarian
    • Cysts that develop on an ovary, in female babies

What causes abdominal cysts?

The causes of most abdominal cysts are generally unknown. Medical experts believe that ovarian cysts might result from exposure to the mother’s hormones during pregnancy.

What are symptoms and signs of abominal cysts?

Before birth, fetal abdominal cysts don’t usually cause symptoms. Signs that can develop in a newborn include:

  • Crying because of pain
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Difficulty passing urine and feces (stool)
  • Jaundice (yellowish color in the skin and eyes)
  • Soft mass in the baby’s belly
  • Vomiting

Very large cysts (two or more inches wide) can cause:

  • Difficult delivery
  • Difficulty breathing if the cyst presses on the diaphragm, preventing the lungs from expanding enough

How are abdominal cysts diagnosed? 

A routine ultrasound during pregnancy can show an abdominal cyst. Your doctor may order additional imaging for more information about the cyst’s size and location.  

Necessary imaging may include:

 Some families may also be referred to our genetics program for a consultation and evaluation. Sometimes, cysts go unnoticed until babies are born or grow older and develop symptoms.  The same imaging techniques – ultrasound, MRI or CT – are used for newborns, infants and older children. Find out more about the imaging methods we use to diagnose fetal conditions.

How are abdominal cysts treated?

If an abdominal cyst is identified during pregnancy, your baby is monitored with ultrasounds at regular intervals.  This allows Dr. Mehra to monitor carefully for any change is size of the cyst.  The information provided through careful monitoring can help families make informed decisions regarding birth plans and neonatal care.  

Sometimes, fetal abdominal cysts self resolve, and don’t require treatment. At other times, some newborns require surgery (cystectomy) to remove a cyst causing symptoms. If the cyst cannot be safely removed in its entirety, Dr. Mehra may recommend draining the cyst, or partially removing some of the cyst.  Our skilled pediatric surgeons have experience in minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures for cystectomy. These techniques use small incisions, a scope (narrow, flexible tube with a light and camera) and very small instruments to remove a cyst.

Contact Dr. Mehra's team to learn more about management and treatment of abdominal cysts.