shutterstock_43369744What is a ganglion cyst?

A ganglion cyst is a benign mass commonly found on the wrist and the end joints in the fingers.  These typically arise from a joint or a tendon.  They are filled with a thick fluid that acts as a lubricant for the joint or tendon.  The fluid leaks from the joint and is covered by a thick sheath.

What are the symptoms of ganglion cyst?

People will notice a growth on the wrist or fingers.  This growth will often fluctuate in size as the fluid moves in and out of the joint/tendon sheath.  It often has well defined borders.  Usually these are asymptomatic, but they can cause pain with joint motion.

How is a ganglion cyst diagnosed?

Ganglion cyst is most often diagnosed by history and physical exam.  An X-ray may be ordered to look at the underlying joint.

What is the treatment for a ganglion cyst?

In most cases, the initial treatment for ganglion cyst is without surgery.  If the cyst is located in a safe location, aspiration of the fluid with a needle is attempted.  This results in resolution 40% of the time, which is still less risky than surgery.  If the cyst is not in a location allowing drainage, or it recurs after drainage, then surgical removal is warranted.

What does ganglion cyst surgery involve?

Ganglion cyst surgery involves removing the cyst with its capsule.  Often a small piece of the underlying joint capsule or tendon sheath is removed with the cyst.  This prevents recurrence.

What are the main risks of this surgery?

• Swelling, stiffness, and pain
• Infection
• Nerve Damage
• Arterial damage
• Tendon or joint damage
• Recurrence

What is the recovery after ganglion cyst surgery?

This is dependant on the type of work you perform.  Many patients with office jobs only require a few days.  However, patients who perform heavy labor may require 4-5 weeks to recover. Usually, you can return to work within a couple days with a splint in place. The splint will be removed in 2 weeks.You may drive when you are off narcotics and feel confident to control the car.  Most patients are able to drive within a week.

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