The kidneys are two bean-shaped organs found in the middle of the back below the rib cage. Their function is to filter and clean blood. The renal artery brings blood into the kidneys to be cleaned, and the renal vein brings the cleaned blood back to the heart. Kidneys also contribute to keeping electrolytes and fluids balanced and help regulate blood pressure and red blood cell count.

What are Kidney Cysts?

A kidney cyst is a pouch of fluid that forms on or inside the kidneys. Some cysts are a sign of serious disorders that can affect kidney function, but many are noncancerous and do not cause complications. In most cases, there is only one cyst on the kidney but multiple cysts or cysts on both kidneys are possible.

Most cysts in the kidneys are simple kidney cysts. These cysts are not related to polycystic kidney disease and do not usually cause symptoms or complications. It is possible for simple cysts to grow large and cause back pain. Simple cysts can also get infected or burst, which also causes pain. Even in these cases, kidney function is not harmed by the cysts.


Many simple kidney cysts do not cause symptoms. However, if the cyst gets very large or blocks blood or urine flow, then symptoms may include:

  • Dull pain in the lower back or side
  • Fever
  • Upper abdominal pain

Diagnosis and Treatment

To diagnose a kidney cyst, a doctor may use imaging tests:

  • CT scans
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

Blood and urine tests can also be used to determine if kidney function has been impaired by the cyst. If there is no impairment and or unpleasant symptoms, then treatment may not be needed. The cysts will need to be monitored periodically to make sure they do not grow or cause blockages.

If a simple kidney cyst starts causing pain or blockages, then a treatment called sclerotherapy is done. An ultrasound-guided needle is inserted and punctures and drains the cyst. The cyst is then filled with a solution that will harden it and prevent it from regrowing. This procedure can be done on an outpatient basis because it only requires a local anesthetic. 

Large simple kidney cysts may be excised with a laparoscopy. A laparoscopic procedure uses a small tube with a light and a video camera on the end. The surgeon uses the camera to visualize the area and the cyst is drained and removed. Sometimes the cyst may be burned to prevent regrowth. This is an in-patient procedure that requires general anesthesia.

Schedule an Appointment

At Alliance Urology Specialists in Greensboro, our goal is to provide the highest level of specialized care. Our board-certified physicians specialize in the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions, including kidney cysts. If you are having symptoms of a kidney condition or are concerned about any urological issues, please contact us to get started on a plan.
To schedule an appointment, call (336) 274-1114.