Most series that report the results of surgical treatment for congenital liver cysts focus more on the technical aspects of the operation than on the late outcome of these patients. In this paper, we emphasize the importance of appropriate patient selection and adequate surgical technique for successful long-term outcome. Twenty-four consecutive patients with congenital liver cysts were selected for surgical treatment. According to our own classification, 13 patients had simple liver cysts, nine had multicystic liver disease, and two had type I polycystic liver disease. All of these patients were treated by the fenestration technique. An open approach was used for five patients (group 1) treated between 1984 and 1990. In 19 patients (group 2) treated since 1991, a laparoscopic approach was used. The incidence of complicated liver cysts was 40% in group 1 and 68% in group 2. There were no treatment-related deaths in this series. The mean postoperative hospital stay was significantly shorter for patients who underwent successful laparoscopic fenestration (p < 0.05). In the open group (group 1), there were no postoperative complications, and all patients were alive and free of symptoms during a mean follow-up of 130 months, without any sign of cyst recurrence. In the laparoscopic group (group 2), four patients were converted to open surgery. One of these patients had an inaccessible posterior cyst; another had bile within the cystic cavity. A further two cases had complicated liver cysts with an uncertain diagnosis between congenital and neoplastic cysts. Four patients (21%) developed peri- or postoperative complications. During a mean follow-up time of 38.5 months, none of the patients with simple liver cysts incurred late symptoms or signs of cyst recurrence. In the six patients with multicystic liver disease, one developed disease-related cyst progression (17%) and required reoperation. One of the two patients with type I polycystic liver disease (50%) developed asymptomatic disease-related cyst progression. When patients are carefully selected and a proper surgical technique is employed, excellent long-term results with a low morbidity rate can be achieved in patients with congenital liver cysts. Patients with multicystic liver disease or type I polycystic liver disease are more prone to late cyst recurrence. A tailored approach is thus indicated for patients with congenital liver cystic disease. However, the laparoscopic approach appears to be the gold standard for the treatment of highly symptomatic or complicated simple liver cysts.

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