A wrist ganglion cyst is a swelling that usually occurs over the back of the hand or wrist. These are benign, fluid-filled capsules. Ganglion cysts are not cancerous, will not spread, and while they may grow in size, they will not spread to other parts of your body.
Where did the wrist ganglion cyst come from?
Ganglion cysts arise as outpouchings from fluid filled areas such as the fluid within the small joints of the wrist, or fluid within the sheath that surrounds the wrist tendons. When the fluid, called synovial fluid, leaks out from these spaces, it can become a cystic structure.
What is the fluid within the wrist ganglion cyst?
The fluid is identical to the normal fluid found within a joint or within a tendon sheath. The fluid can become gelatinous over time.
Is there anything else this lump could be?
Yes, and it is important to have this type of lump checked by your doctor to ensure it is simply a ganglion cyst. While most lumps around the wrist and hand are ganglion cysts (by far the most common), there are other conditions that have different treatments. Other type of tumors such as a lipoma or giant cell tumor, infections, bone spur, and other conditions can cause lumps around the wrist.
Will the ganglion cyst go away?
Sometimes, wrist ganglion cysts go away with no treatment, most of the time they linger around or even grow larger. Some cysts form a type of one-way valve such that fluid enters the cyst easily, but cannot escape. When the ganglion cyst becomes large enough, it will begin to put pressure on surrounding structures. This pressure can cause painful symptoms, and is usually the reason these ganglion cysts are removed.
How can a wrist ganglion cyst be removed?
There are several methods of treatment that are possible. Putting a needle into the ganglion cyst and aspirating the fluid may work. However, the gelatinous fluid within the cyst does not always come through a needle very well. Furthermore, this treatment leaves the cyst lining behind, and the ganglion cyst will return about 50% of the time.
Another alternative, that some call traditional, others call a bit barbaric, is to smash the wrist ganglion cyst with a hard object such as a book. This pops the cyst, and ruptures the lining of the cyst. Because the lining is disrupted, the smashed ganglion cyst may not return quite as often as those drained by a needle. However, many patients are uncomfortable with their doctor ‘whacking’ a book against their wrist…
The definitive treatment is to remove the ganglion cyst with a surgical procedure. In surgery, the wrist ganglion is “shelled out,” meaning the fluid and the sac are removed. In addition, the connection to the joint or tendon sheath that supplied the fluid can be occluded. While this usually is effective, a small percentage of removed wrist ganglion will still return.