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Radiographics. 2015 Jan-Feb;35(1):125-41. doi: 10.1148/rg.351130016.

CT and MR imaging for evaluation of cystic renal lesions and diseases.

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From the Department of Radiology, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, 676 N Saint Clair St, Suite 800, Chicago, IL 60611.


Cystic renal lesions are commonly encountered in abdominal imaging. Although most cystic renal lesions are benign simple cysts, complex renal cysts, infectious cystic renal disease, and multifocal cystic renal disease are also common phenomena. The Bosniak classification system provides a useful means of categorizing cystic renal lesions but places less emphasis on their underlying pathophysiology. Cystic renal diseases can be categorized as focal, multifocal, or infectious lesions. Diseases that manifest with focal lesions, such as cystic renal cell carcinoma, mixed epithelial and stromal tumor, and cystic nephroma, are often difficult to differentiate but have differing implications for follow-up after resection. Multifocal cystic renal lesions can be categorized as acquired or heritable. Acquired entities, such as glomerulocystic kidney disease, lithium-induced nephrotoxicity, acquired cystic kidney disease, multicystic dysplastic kidney, and localized cystic renal disease, often have distinct imaging and clinical features that allow definitive diagnosis. Heritable diseases, such as autosomal dominant polycystic kidney disease, von Hippel-Lindau disease, and tuberous sclerosis, are usually easily identified and have various implications for patient management. Infectious diseases have varied imaging appearances, and the possibility of infection must not be overlooked when assessing a cystic renal lesion. A thorough understanding of the spectrum of cystic renal disease will allow the radiologist to make a more specific diagnosis and provide the clinician with optimal recommendations for further diagnostic testing and follow-up imaging.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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