What is a ganglion?
A ganglion is a lump under the skin that contains fluid. Most ganglions form near the wrist joint (see figure 1) but they can also be found on the ankle and foot. The fluid in the ganglion is called synovial fluid, and it keeps joints and tendons lubricated during movement.
Ganglions are mostly a cosmetic issue but sometimes can cause pain or discomfort. There is no clear explanation on how they form or what the cause is. 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.
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 are the benefits of ganglion removal surgery?
The lump and any discomfort from it should disappear. Surgery gives the best chance of stopping the ganglion coming back.
What will happen during a ganglion removal?
A variety of anaesthetic techniques are possible. The ganglion removal operation usually takes between a quarter of an hour and half an hour.
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.
What are the risks of the procedure?
Ganglion removal is a routine and minor procedure so there is a small risk of complications. As with any intervention there might be risks of bleeding, infection in the wound or unsightly scarring. There is a risk of damage to the small nerves near the ganglion or experiencing permanent stiffness in the wrist.
Some ganglions come back after a few months or years. The consultant will discuss all risks prior to the procedure.
How soon will I recover?
You should be able to go home the same day.
Regular exercise should help you to return to normal activities as soon as possible following ganglion removal. Before you start exercising, you should ask a member of the healthcare team or your GP for advice. The joint where the ganglion was can continue to ache but any joint stiffness should get better fairly quickly.