A ganglion (sometimes called a "ganglion cyst") is a lump that arises from a joint or tendon. It is very common, is not cancerous and is not necessarily painful. Ganglia are very common on the back of the wrist and in young women. In the upper limbs ganglion cysts can also be located on the front of the wrist and in the fingers. Ganglion cysts can arise from joints or from tendon sheaths, and they represent an outpouching of the structure that they arise from. [Image Credit]
Non surgical options
Ganglia do not have to be removed. They may vary in size (get bigger and smaller) of their own accord. The pain attributed to a ganglion may be improved if the ganglion is surgically removed, although there is no guarantee of this. Splinting and needle aspiration of the ganglion cyst are options that have a low risk.
Drainage, aspiration and puncture of some ganglions can be performed as an office procedure.
Surgical excision of a ganglion requires an incision to be made over the lump, and for the lump to be removed at its base (where it arises from the joint or tendon). The surgery is performed as day case surgery.
Both of these options can be followed by recurrence of the ganglion. Recurrence is significantly more likely to happen after an aspiration than after surgical excision.
What is the recovery period?
The duration of the recovery period depends on where the ganglion is. You will have a bandage placed at the site of the surgery which must remain in position until your first post operative visit which will be 1-2 weeks after your surgery. You should keep your hand elevated (in a sling if necessary) for the first 48 hours. You should avoid heavy lifting and manual labor until after your post operative review.
What can go wrong (complications)?
The complications of this surgery include allergic reaction, bleeding, altered skin sensation, damage to surrounding structures, recurrence of the ganglion, infection, pain (which could be chronic), scarring, skin contour irregularities, tendon scarring, persisting pain and restricted motion. Complications such as the remote risk of death or serious disability exist with any surgical procedure but are extremely unlikely with ganglion surgery.
The video below shows a patient with a ganglion cyst and footage of a drainage procedure and a surgical excision.