Ganglion Cysts and Ganglion Cyst Removal

What is a Ganglion Cyst?

A ganglion cyst is a noncancerous, occasionally painful, fluid-filled lump that develops on top of joints or along the tendons of wrists or hands. The cyst is filled with a thick, sticky, and clear fluid. Although found on the back of the hand 60-70% of the time, a ganglion cyst can also develop on feet. The cyst may develop suddenly or slowly over time. It is possible for the cyst to feel hard or spongy, depending on size. Ganglion cysts are more common in women and those 20 to 40 years of age.

What Causes a Ganglion Cyst?

Although several theories exist, the exact cause of a ganglion cyst remains unknown. Some theorize that the joint or tendon sheath can be flawed, causing joint tissue to bulge out. Others believe trauma to the tissue can cause the creation of small cysts that join into a larger mass.

What are the Symptoms of a Ganglion Cyst?

A ganglion cyst often begins as a small, raised bump that can change size. The cyst can be soft or firm, is usually round, and ranges anywhere from 1-3 cm in diameter. Size may vary depending on activity level, becoming larger if the joint is being used, and smaller when at rest. A ganglion cyst is usually painless, although a cyst can occasionally cause pain if located in an area capable of applying pressure on nerves. Weakness or numbness can also occur.

Non-Surgical Treatment Options for Ganglion Cysts?

Treatment for ganglion cysts can often be non-surgical. If painless, observation of the cyst may be appropriate. If the cyst becomes painful, hinders use of the hand or foot, or is cosmetically unacceptable, there are additional treatment options available. A ganglion cyst doctor may prescribe anti-inflammatory medication that can help decrease pain. Fluid may also be removed from the cyst in order to decompress it. If non-surgical options do not provide relief, ganglion cyst removal is the next alternative.

Surgical Treatment Options

Ganglion cyst removal should be performed by a ganglion cyst doctor. The surgical removal of the cyst is called a ganglionectomy. Although most procedures require local anesthesia, general anesthetics may be necessary for some situations, requiring a family member or friend to be available for transportation. The first step of the removal includes the doctor feeling the borders of the cyst with fingers in order to mark the peripheral borders. The cyst is then cut with a scalpel and excised. Finally, the incision is sutured closed and bandaged.

Recovery Time after Ganglion Cyst Surgery

Recovery time following ganglion cyst removal can vary from patient to patient; however, patients are commonly instructed to avoid strenuous activity for at least two days following the surgery. Excessive activity can adversely affect recovery time necessary for removal. The patient is asked to contact the ganglion cyst doctor immediately if any signs of infection or inflammation are experienced. Once the healing process is near completion, one may return to a normal level of physical activity.