Ganglion cysts are harmless and do not require treatment. Some disappear on their own when left untreated. If a ganglion is unsightly or causes pain or discomfort it can be removed.
- aspiration, draining the fluid with a syringe, or
- surgical removal.
Your GP can help you to decide if you need treatment and the best treatment option for you. This will depend on where your ganglion cyst is and whether it is causing any symptoms.
The contents of a ganglion cyst can be removed with a needle and syringe in a procedure called aspiration. The procedure is carried out under local anaesthetic (where the area is numbed) and is usually performed in the outpatients department of your local hospital or GP surgery.
The skin over your lump is cleaned and numbed with a small local anaesthetic injection. Your doctor will remove as much of the contents of the ganglion as possible with a syringe.
The area is sometimes injected with a dose of steroid to help prevent the ganglion returning. A plaster is placed over the needle hole, which can be removed about six hours after the procedure.
Aspiration is a simple and painless procedure and you will be able to leave the hospital or surgery straight afterwards. It is often the first treatment option offered for ganglion cysts as it is less invasive than surgery. However, there is a chance of a ganglion cyst returning after aspiration. If a cyst returns, surgery may still be necessary.
Surgery removes the ganglion cyst completely rather than just removing the contents.
The operation is done under local or general anaesthetic, depending on where the ganglion is, which anaesthetic you would prefer and what your surgeon thinks is best.
Having a local anaesthetic means that you will be awake but will not feel any pain. Having a general anaesthetic means that you will be completely asleep during the operation.
During the operation an incision is made into the skin that is at least as wide as the lump. The ganglion is then extracted.
The surgeon will stitch up the wound and a bandage will be placed over the area. This helps to keep the area clean (to reduce infection) and safe from any accidental bumps. The wound is not usually painful but you will be given painkillers to take if you feel any discomfort after the operation.
Even after surgery some ganglions can reappear, but they do not always need to be removed again.