Ganglion Cyst Removal and Surgery

hand with ganglion cyst

Ganglion cysts are more common than you think. You may have or have noticed someone with a protruding finger cyst or lump on their hand, ankle, or shoulder and not given it much thought. Or, you could have unknowingly assumed it was a tumor growing in plain sight. Fortunately, that isn’t the case.

If you suspect that you have a ganglion cyst and need to know your options to remove it, keep reading. We will explore what a ganglion cyst is, how it’s diagnosed, nonsurgical and surgical treatment and aftercare, and how to help prevent it from returning.

What Is a Ganglion Cyst?

A ganglion cyst — or ganglion — is a benign bulge filled with jelly-like joint fluid called synovial fluid. Although there is no precise cause or root of how and why ganglions develop, research has shown that they often grow near joints due to repetitive strain.

Ganglions are usually not harmful but may cause discomfort and pain if they persistently experience joint movement or press on a nerve. Those with osteoarthritis are also at great risk of developing ganglion cysts because they are directly affected by and associated with the joints.

Sometimes these cysts go away without any intervention, but they may also come back for no reason.

Ganglion Cyst Diagnosis

A doctor can advise you if it is a ganglion by physically examining the cyst. They will observe how it looks and feels, where it is located, and whether the fluid build-up is clear. They may also conduct other tests to diagnose the ganglion if there is any uncertainty or at your request. These methods are usually effective but tend to be costly because of the equipment used. They include:

  • X-ray: Having an X-ray done will not identify the ganglion per se since it is used to measure bone density, but it could rule out other issues like bone tumors or arthritis instead.
  • MRI scan: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans are able to view soft tissue, although it will also compare the cyst to tumors and other soft tissue conditions that may occur.
  • Ultrasound: An ultrasound performs the same function as an MRI scan and may be done as an alternative.

Ganglion Cyst Treatment

There are different ways to treat ganglion cysts, although they have been reported to recur after treatment. Some patients may choose the nonsurgical option for milder cases, while others may opt for surgical removal if they experience prolonged and increasing pain. A trained physician will assess the severity of the situation and make the necessary recommendations.

Ganglion cyst finger treatment may also be an option for patients who use their hands for work and are experiencing persistent pain that is preventing them from working efficiently.

Nonsurgical Treatment Options

While they may not pose a threat to your overall health and well-being, ganglions are known to cause minor to moderate occasional aching and uneasiness that may impact day-to-day activities. Some may also consider them unappealing to the eye and feel embarrassed. This is often one of the main reasons patients seek assistance to remove these cysts. Some nonsurgical treatment options include:

  • Observing the cyst for growth: A ganglion often subsides and disappears on its own over time. If it does not cause pain or discomfort, it may be best to observe and see whether it will grow any further or completely dissipate.
  • Wearing a splint: A splint will keep the wrist or finger straight to prevent movement if the ganglion causes pain. It may be a hindrance but is a temporary, nonsurgical solution. If the cyst gets smaller while you’re wearing the splint, your doctor may recommend removing it to encourage regular mobility.
  • Using anti-inflammatories for pain: Ganglion cysts do not generally cause pain consistently, but when they do, anti-inflammatories may help ease the affliction.
  • Trying aspiration: Aspiration refers to removing fluids from the body. This can be done using a needle or syringe and does not require any surgical intervention, although local anesthetic may be used to numb the surrounding area.

Surgical Treatment Options

ganglion cyst treatment options

Anyone concerned and seeking further surgical treatment may approach a doctor about finger cyst removal surgery and removing a ganglion cyst in the palm of the hand. Often, these requests are due to a lack of mobility caused by pain leading to limited functionality. The increasing pain and unsightliness of a ganglion may contribute to why a patient requests surgery, regardless of whether they have tried nonsurgical treatment options.

If you choose to proceed with ganglion cyst surgery, your doctor will refer you to a hand specialist to perform the surgery.

The specialist will likely recommend a minor outpatient procedure called an excision. During the operation, a small incision is made at the site of the ganglion. The tendon sheath is removed since it provides a stalk for the cyst to grow on. This removes the root of the problem, although there is always a chance it could grow back.

Understandably, some patients are fearful when they hear the word “surgery.” Fortunately, the procedure has a high success rate, is relatively easy and requires little preparation from you. It is also done under local anesthesia, which increases some people’s comfort going into the surgery. You will likely be released shortly after the surgery is completed because it’s such a common and effective procedure.

Surgical Aftercare

Ganglion cyst removal surgery aftercare requires rest and decreased mobility in the operated area as far as possible. It will take a few days for the swelling to go down, but the recovery time for finger cyst removal surgery is usually up to six weeks if you follow the doctor’s recovery recommendations stringently. A few of these may include:

  • Wearing a splint for a few days to keep the site from exertion, limiting movement as far as possible.
  • Completing light finger stretching exercises after the splint is removed to help regain mobility.
  • Easing swelling with a cold pack.
  • Using anti-inflammatories to manage post-surgery pain.
  • Taking antibiotics in the unlikely event of an infection.

If you notice the cyst growing back over time, do not attempt to puncture or disturb it in any way. Instead, consult your doctor or the specialist who performed the surgery and get proper advice. They may have to carry out a secondary follow-up procedure to remove it.

Although the surgery has an overall high success rate, the cyst is known to return sometimes. The reason for it growing back is unknown but could be due to the stalk regenerating and providing the same conditions for regrowth.

Future Prevention

There is no record of preventive measures you can take to avoid ganglions from growing back. However, it is advised to avoid excessive repetitive strain or stress on the limb that may have led to the growth in the first place.

Get Quality Care and Treatment With the Hand Center of Louisiana

quality ganglion cyst care

We never want you to feel like you are alone when faced with any medical situation, big or small. If you believe you may be suffering from an ailment like ganglion, consult your doctor, who will refer you to our specialized physicians at the Hand Center of Louisiana.

We take pride in providing comprehensive treatment and boast an effective Hand Therapy Center, a certified Hand Diagnostic Center and even a supportive Hand Counseling Center for those who need a helping hand pre or post-surgery.

Make an online appointment today so we can help you without further delay.