What is a ganglion?

A ganglion cyst is a lump that develops under your skin and contains fluid. The cyst can range from the size of a pea to the size of a golf ball and are typically round or oval.

Most ganglions form near the wrist, hands and fingers, but they can form alongside any joint in the body. The fluid in the ganglion (called synovial fluid) comes from a joint or tendon through a narrow channel.

Can a ganglion cyst go away by itself?

A ganglion will often disappear on its own after a year or two. If your ganglion is not causing much trouble, it is best to leave it alone.

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What does the operation involve?

Your surgeon will make a cut over the ganglion and separate the ganglion from the nearby tendons, nerves and blood vessels. They will then remove the ganglion.

The operation usually takes between a quarter of an hour and half an hour. A variety of anaesthetic techniques is possible. You should be able to go home the same day.

Ganglions can come back after a few months or years.

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How long does it take to recover from a ganglion cyst removal?

The joint where the ganglion was can continue to ache but any joint stiffness should settle quickly.

Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible. Before you start exercising, ask the healthcare team or your GP for advice.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

The fluid can be taken out of the ganglion using a needle. This improves any discomfort for a while. Your doctor may also inject the ganglion with a steroid (cortisone).

These treatments may help for a short time.

What complications can happen?

General complications

  • Pain
  • Bleeding
  • Infection of the surgical site (wound)
  • Unsightly scarring

Specific complications

  • Damage to an artery
  • Damage to small nerves
  • Continued aching where the ganglion was
  • Severe pain, stiffness and loss of use of the limb (complex regional pain syndrome)

Information leaflet

This document is intended for information purposes only and should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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Mr Stephen Milner DM FRCS (Tr. & Orth.)
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Copyright © 2019 EIDO Healthcare Limited
The operation and treatment information on this webpage is produced using information from EIDO Healthcare Ltd and is licensed by the Horder Centre. The information should not replace advice that your relevant health professional would give you.

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