Table of contents
- What is a ganglion cyst?
- What are the symptoms of a ganglion cyst?
- When should I seek treatment for a ganglion cyst?
- What does the treatment of ganglion cyst involve?
- How long does ganglion cyst removal surgery take?
- How long will I be in hospital?
- What are the results of ganglion cyst removal?
- What are the risks and complications of ganglion cyst removal?
What is a ganglion cyst?
A ganglion cyst is a harmless, sometimes painful, fluid-filled swelling which usually develops near a joint or tendon.
What are the symptoms of a ganglion cyst?
A ganglion cyst can vary in size from a pea to a golf ball. They consist of synovial fluid, the thick, gelatinous fluid which surrounds joints and tendons, and they feel and look like a smooth lump under the skin.
While they can occur adjacent to any joint, they are especially common on the wrist, hand and fingers.
When should I seek treatment for a ganglion cyst?
While ganglion cysts are harmless, they can nevertheless be painful. If they are not painful they can safely go untreated and may disappear on their own, which can take a number of years.
Treatment is only recommended if there is pain or if the ganglion cyst is affecting the movement of a joint – this may be available on the NHS but increasingly less so.
You may wish to have a ganglion cyst removed for cosmetic reasons – this would not be funded by the NHS.
What does the treatment of ganglion cyst involve?
There are two main techniques for treatment – aspiration and surgical removal:
- Aspiration is an outpatient procedure and involves using a needle and syringe to extract as much synovial fluid from the ganglion cyst as possible. Sometimes the area is injected with steroid medication to reduce the chances of the ganglion cyst coming back. It is a simple and painless procedure and often the first treatment offered. You’ll be able to go home immediately afterwards.
- Surgical removal takes two forms: open surgery; (where your surgeon makes a cut of about 5cms over the affected area), and arthroscopic surgery, which is a form of keyhole surgery and uses an arthroscope as a guide. Both can be performed under either local or general anaesthetic, depending on your preference and what your surgeon thinks is most appropriate.
How long does ganglion cyst removal surgery take?
Aspiration takes a matter of minutes, and depending on the technique used surgical removal can take between 20 and 45 minutes.
How long will I be in hospital?
For aspiration and surgery using local anaesthetic there will be no need for a stay in hospital. If you have a general anaesthetic you may need to stay for a night depending on the time of day of your operation and your reaction to the anaesthetic.
What are the results of ganglion cyst removal?
If you have had a surgical removal, your wound will be stitched and bandaged. If surgery was performed on your hand or wrist than elevation and gentle movement of your fingers will help swelling and aid healing.
What are the risks and complications of ganglion cyst removal?
Ganglion cyst removal is a minor operation and as such rarely has risks or complications. If you have had a surgical removal you may experience:
- Wound infection. This may require short course of antibiotics.
- Bruising, stiffness and swelling which may require physiotherapy.
- Damage to structures nearby such as nerves, blood vessels and tendons.
- Risks associated with general anaesthetic
- The recurrence of the ganglion cyst, which can be particularly high around the wrist.