About the disease
Liver echinococcus is an infection of the liver caused by bacteria known as Echinococcus granulosus. This bacteria is transmitted through the food in the form of tapeworm eggs which contaminated food may contain. Another name for liver echinococcus is hydatid infection. The tapeworm eggs of this bacteria are dangerous as they can form cysts inside the body, which can become multiple if the infection has not been treated on time. The most common place where the cyst can form is liver or lungs, but it can also grow in the heart or bones. The tapeworm eggs most commonly are contained in the contaminated meat of such livestock as sheep or pigs. Goats or cattle overall can have this bacteria as well. The infection is also found in dogs and cats, but they are not likely to transmit it to the human. The tapeworms contained in the contaminated meat are usually quite big as for the bacteria reaching 2 to 7 mm in size.
Overall, liver echinococcus is most common in such areas as Africa and Central Asia. Multiple cases have been reported in Southern South America as well. Liver echinococcus can be quite dangerous as it leads to benign growths forming in the vital organs. In some cases, liver echinococcus can be life threatening, especially if the cysts formed in other vital organs, such as brain, heart or lungs. The curious thing about liver echinococcus is that it can be latent for years before manifesting itself for the first time. Sometimes 10 years can pass before cysts grow to the point when they manifest first symptoms.
- Pain in the upper abdomen in the right quadrant where the liver is
- Swollen abdomen if the cyst grew in the liver
- Chest pain if the cyst grew in the lungs
- Cough if the cyst grew in the lungs
- Strong allergic reaction in case of cyst rupture
- During a general examination, a doctor will palpate the right upper abdomen to determine if the liver area is painful.
- An imaging tests such as CT scan or an X-ray is used to determine if there is a cyst and what is its growth. It can also determine if the cyst is single or multiple.
- A liver function test is used to determine if the cyst affected the liver and any of its functions.
- A blood test is used to measure the amount of enzymes in the blood, which is abnormal if there is liver echinococcus.
- Percutaneous paracentesis aspiration echinococcectomy is a surgery, whereas the cyst undergoes aspiration through the needs, which also has a medicine on it designed to kill the tapeworm and to prevent recurrent cyst formation. The cyst is simply drained, thus removed, through the needle. This is the most preferable type of surgery as it is the least extensive but it can be used only if the cyst is not very large and has not affected the vital organs.
- Extensive or partial liver resection is used if the cyst has affected the liver and any of its vital functions. Then, the affected part needs to be removed to allow a liver to properly function again.