Diagnosis

Tests and procedures used to diagnose simple kidney cysts include:

  • Imaging tests. MRI, CT and ultrasound are imaging tests that are often used to diagnose simple kidney cysts. Imaging tests can help determine whether a kidney mass is a cyst or a tumor.
  • Kidney function tests. Testing a sample of your blood may reveal whether a kidney cyst is affecting how well your kidney works.

Treatment

Treatment may not be needed

If a simple kidney cyst causes no symptoms and doesn't affect kidney function, you may not need treatment. Instead, your health care provider may recommend that you have imaging tests, such as ultrasounds, over time to see whether your kidney cyst changes.

If your kidney cyst changes and causes symptoms, you may choose to have treatment at that time. Sometimes a simple kidney cyst goes away on its own.

Treatments for cysts that cause symptoms

If a simple kidney cyst is causing symptoms, your health care provider may recommend treatment. Options include:

  • Piercing and draining the cyst, then filling it with a solution. The solution causes scarring and helps prevent the cyst from filling with fluid again. Alcohol or a chemical compound may be used as the solution.

    Rarely, to shrink the cyst, a long, thin needle may be inserted through your skin and through the wall of the kidney cyst. Then the fluid is drained from the cyst and filled with a solution to prevent it from reforming.

  • Surgery to remove the cyst. A large cyst that's causing symptoms may require surgery. To access the cyst, a surgeon makes several small incisions in your skin and inserts special tools and a small video camera.

    While watching a video monitor in the operating room, the surgeon guides the tools to the kidney and uses them to drain the fluid from the cyst. Then the walls of the cyst are cut or burned away. Surgery is rarely performed for simple cysts. The procedure is more often used for complex cysts with changes that may be cancer.

Some procedures to treat a kidney cyst may require a brief hospital stay.

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Preparing for your appointment

A simple kidney cyst found during an imaging test for another disease or condition may concern you. Talk with your health care provider about what having a simple kidney cyst means for your health. Gathering information may put your mind at ease and help you feel more in control of your situation.

What you can do

Before meeting with your health care provider, prepare a list of questions to ask, such as:

  • How big is the kidney cyst?
  • Is the kidney cyst new or has it been visible on other scans?
  • Is the kidney cyst likely to grow?
  • Can the kidney cyst hurt my kidney?
  • I have these unexplained symptoms. Could they be caused by a kidney cyst?
  • Does the kidney cyst need to be removed?
  • What are my treatment options?
  • What are the potential risks of each treatment option?
  • What symptoms may indicate the kidney cyst is growing?
  • Should I see a specialist?
  • Are there any restrictions that I need to follow?
  • Do you have any printed material that I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
  • Will I need a follow-up visit?

Don't hesitate to ask other questions as they occur to you during your appointment.

What to expect from your doctor

Your health care provider is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:

  • Do you have any symptoms?
  • If so, how long have you experienced symptoms?
  • Have your symptoms gotten worse over time?
  • Do you have any blood in your urine?
  • Have you had pain in your back or sides?
  • Have you had a fever or chills?
  • Do you have any other medical conditions?
  • What medications, vitamins or supplements do you take?
July 13, 2022
  1. Kruskal JB, et al. Simple and complex renal cysts in adults. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed April 7, 2022.
  2. Partin AW, et al., eds. Benign renal tumors. In: Campbell-Walsh-Wein Urology. 12th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 7, 2022.
  3. Simple kidney cysts. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/kidney-disease/simple-kidney-cysts. Accessed April 7, 2022.
  4. Maugeri A, et al. Comparison of aspiration with sclerotherapy and laparoscopic deroofing for the treatment of symptomatic simple renal cysts: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Updates in Surgery. 2021; doi:10.1007/s13304-021-01042-2.
  5. AskMayoExpert. Renal cysts (adult). Mayo Clinic; 2021.
  6. Simple kidney cysts. National Kidney Foundation. https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/Simple-Kidney-Cysts. Accessed April 7, 2022.
  7. Kellerman RD, et al. Malignant tumors of the urogenital tract. In: Conn's Current Therapy 2022. Elsevier; 2022. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 7, 2022.
  8. Feehally J, et al., eds. Other cystic kidney diseases. In: Comprehensive Clinical Nephrology. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 12, 2022.

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