Patient Education

To help you understand and navigate through your orthopedic health decisions, we have created a patient education section. Please select from one of the categories below to learn more about your condition or procedure.
Ganglion Cyst

A ganglion cyst is a fluid-filled lump that usually appears on the wrist or hand, often over a joint or tendon. It is a benign, non-cancerous ball of fluid that grows on the membrane or sheath covering tendons and joints.

Common Symptoms

  • Noticeable swelling or lump that may change size or go away and return.
  • The lump may be soft, hard, mobile, immobile, and painless or may have soreness.
  • In some cases, pain, aching, or numbness occurs if the cyst presses on a nerve.
  • Reduced joint mobility or weakness if the cyst affects a tendon.

Cause & Anatomy

A Ganglion Cyst forms when there is a small tear in the sleeve of thin tissue (synovial sheath) that covers a joint or tendon, allowing fluid from the joint to leak into the sac and cause swelling. The exact cause is unknown, but theories include:

  • The body’s response to injury, trauma or overuse by forming an internal ‘blister’. Small tears in the tendon membrane or joint capsule allow fluid to leak out. Underlying arthritis creates extra fluid and the extra fluid may leak out of the joint. Often the cyst appears without any reason or injury.


  • Physical examination to check for a soft, immobile or mobile lump
  • Imaging tests like ultrasound, X-ray, or MRI to confirm and rule out other conditions
  • Aspiration (drawing fluid with a needle) to examine the thick, clear, gelatinous fluid


Since the exact cause is unknown, there are no known preventive measures. Diagnosis and treatment are recommended to look for other problems and to confirm it is just a cyst.


  • Monitoring the bump if it is not causing issues may allow 30-50% disappear without treatment.
  • Immobilization with a splint or brace to restrict joint movement provides comfort.
  • Aspiration (draining fluid with a needle), though the cyst may refill 90% of the time.
  • Surgery to remove the entire cyst, including the synovial stalk resolves the cyst 10% of the time.


The cyst and its stalk are surgically removed, by an orthopedic surgeon. The surgery seeks to remove the stalk from the joint and space around the bones.

Post-Surgery Rehabilitation

  • Wearing a splint or soft bandage for 1-2 weeks
  • Following doctor’s aftercare instructions on keeping the wound clean.
  • Using over-the-counter pain medication if needed
  • Raising the affected limb to reduce swelling
  • Physical/occupational therapy may be recommended based on individual needs


Are ganglion cysts cancerous?
No, they are benign and non-cancerous.

Do they go away on their own?
Around 30-50% disappear without treatment.

What if I suspect I have a ganglion cyst?
Seek an evaluation from a hand surgeon as soon as possible.

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