A ganglion cyst is a noncancerous lump that most commonly develops in the wrist or hand. Some occur in the ankles or feet. If a ganglion cyst presses on a nerve, it may be painful. Depending on its location, a ganglion cyst may restrict movement.
Some cysts do not require any treatment, but others require surgical removal.
In ganglion cyst removal, a doctor will remove the cyst capsule or stalk in order to completely remove the cyst. Even with surgery, a ganglion cyst may reoccur.
Patients with severe ganglion cysts can benefit from surgical removal. Some patients never experience pain or limited movement because of their cysts, so they do not require surgery. When a cyst gets large and cannot be treated by other methods, surgical removal can provide relief.
While it does not eliminate the chance of cysts completely, surgery removes the source of discomfort.
Patients may experience localized pain after surgery. This can be relieved by numbing medications, over-the-counter pain medications, or prescription pain medications.
Some patients may experience swelling at the removal site. This will go away in time, and it can be treated with ice.
In rare occasions, infection may occur after ganglion cyst removal. A doctor may prescribe an antibiotic to prevent the infection from spreading. Patients are encouraged to keep their dressing and wounds clean to prevent infection and minimize scarring.
Before deciding to remove a ganglion cyst, your doctor will discuss other treatment options. Surgery is usually seen as a last resort for treating ganglion cysts. Your doctor may recommend having the cyst drained (through a process called aspiration). Your doctor may also prescribe a wrist brace to prevent mobility around the cyst.
If your doctor decides that surgery is the best option, follow his or her instructions to prepare for surgery.
Ganglion cyst removal is almost always an outpatient procedure. It may be performed under local or general anesthesia. Before surgery, your doctor may draw a line above the cyst to mark the incision location. During the surgery, your doctor will numb the treatment area and cut along the line with a scalpel. Then the doctor will identify the cyst and cut it out, along with its capsule or stalk. Once the cyst is removed, your doctor will stitch the opening to let the skin heal.
Like any surgery, ganglion cyst removal poses a risk of infection. Patients may experience an allergic reaction to the anesthesia used in the removal, or to the stitches used to seal the removal site. Most people who have a ganglion cyst removed heal quickly and without difficulty.
Patients almost always return home the same day as the procedure. A ganglion cyst removal does not guarantee that ganglion cysts will not return. Some patients experience new cysts a few years after surgery.