A ganglion cyst excision is a surgical procedure to remove a fluid-filled sac from the finger, wrist, or sole of the foot. Ganglion cysts form near the joints in the wrists, fingers, or feet, and may be painful due to pressure on the surrounding nerves. These cysts do not always require surgical treatment. Immobilizing the affected area can help prevent the growth of the cyst, and draining the fluid from the cyst with a small needle can also alleviate pain and other symptoms for some patients. Patients who have ganglion cysts that do not respond to other treatment methods or cysts that keep coming back may require a ganglion cyst excision to completely cut the cyst away from the joint and tendons.
Many doctors perform a ganglion cyst excision as an in-office procedure with a local or regional anesthesia. Once the area is numb, the doctor makes an incision near the cyst to carefully cut it away with a scalpel. The most important part of the procedure is to remove the cyst entirely, including the stalk near the joint that the cyst sprouts from. The incision is then stitched closed.
In some cases, doctors can remove a ganglion cyst through an extremely small incision in a procedure called an arthroscopic ganglion cyst excision. This type of surgery uses a small camera inserted through the opening to help the surgeon locate and remove the cyst. Arthroscopic procedures typically have shorter recovery times due to the smaller incision.
Most patients recover well after the procedure and have no further problems. Rest is necessary after the surgery, and patients may need to wear a splint to keep the affected wrist, finger, or foot stationary during the healing process. Most patients go home the same day of surgery and rest the area for several days before returning to work and normal activities. Over-the-counter or prescription pain medications can relieve discomfort in the first days after surgery.
Complications following a ganglion cyst excision are rare. Patients who undergo the procedure should care for the incision as directed by their doctors. This usually includes keeping the area clean and dry as well as changing the dressing at least once or twice a day during the first days after surgery. An incision that shows signs of infection, such as swelling, redness, or seeping pus, should be evaluated so that treatment to fight the infection can be administered as quickly as possible.