ganglion cyst

A ganglion cyst is a swelling filled with jelly-like fluid that sticks out from the lining of a joint or tendon. While these lumps are usually harmless, you may need surgery to remove one if it becomes painful.

What causes a Ganglion Cyst?

Ganglion cysts are over-use injuries, frequently associated with small, repetitive movements such as typing, knitting and detailed factory work. They are commonly industrial injuries (injuries caused as a direct result of your work), and treatment may be covered by Workers’ Compensation.

We are Workers’ Compensation experts at Dayton Orthopedic Surgery, with decades of experience helping people through the work injury process.

Why you might need surgery

A ganglion is a smooth, soft lump under the skin, which most often occurs around the wrist or ankle, or at the base of the palm of the hand. You may need surgery to remove the lump if it is painful or other attempts to treat it, such as draining the fluid, have not worked.

Before your treatment

You will have a consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.

We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.

The procedure

We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, providing reassurance, every step of the way.

A ganglion cyst removal surgery can be performed under either a general anesthetic, meaning you will be asleep during the procedure, or a local anesthetic, meaning you will be awake but the area around your cyst will be numb. The procedure usually lasts about 30 minutes, once the anesthesia has taken affect.

During the surgery, your surgeon will make a cut over your ganglion. He or she will remove it from the joint or tendon lining without disturbing the surrounding structures. Where a ganglion is tricky to remove, your surgeon will make the cut larger than the size of the lump. The incision is then closed with stitches.


The surgery to remove a ganglion cyst is routinely performed as an outpatient procedure, meaning you won’t need to stay overnight in the hospital.

After this, you will be taken to a comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.

The cut made at the site of the ganglion will be covered with a bandage. If the ganglion was on your hand or wrist, your arm will be placed in a high sling. Your arm or leg (depending on where the ganglion was) may be raised on a pillow in bed. 

Recovery time

You will be prescribed pain killers, which you can take as needed. You should keep the dressing clean and dry. Attaching a plastic bag or specialized cast/bandage cover will keep it dry while you take a shower. You can usually remove the sling after 48 hours and any splint or cast after five days. Avoid taking a bath or submerging your stitches in water, until the stitches have been removed.

For the first week, you should keep the arm or leg that has been treated raised on pillows, whenever possible. This helps to reduce swelling. It is important to gently bend and flex the fingers and wrist of the affected hand (or toes and ankle) while the dressing is in place. Physical therapy is not usually needed.

Avoid wearing jewellery on the affected hand or foot until you have seen your surgeon at your follow-up appointment. You must follow your surgeon’s advice about driving and returning to work.

How your loved ones can help

Once you’re ready to be discharged from the hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive.

Looking after you

Even after you’ve left the hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After a ganglion cyst removal, we will provide you with all the appropriate medication, advice on what to do and not to do and follow-up support.

Typically your surgeon will want to see you about two weeks after your treatment to see how you’re doing.

Like all medical treatments, complications following a ganglion cyst removal can occur, including excessive swelling, delayed healing and damage to surrounding skin nerves. If you experience any of these symptoms, please call us to arrange a check up. Occasionally, a ganglion reappears in the same place, but this is not common. Your medical team will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.

If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.