Ganglion removal

What is a Ganglion?

A ganglion is a lump found under the skin and is full of fluid. It usually occurs at the base of your palm or around the wrist. If the ganglion is near a nerve it can become painful and may need to be removed surgically.

You surgeon may recommend an operation to remove the ganglion. This page will give you information about what to expect from surgery so that you can make an informed decision.

When to consider ganglion removal surgery in the hand and wrist

Ganglions usually form near joints. Three in four ganglions form near the wrist.

The fluid in the ganglion comes from a joint or tendon through a narrow channel. Some ganglions are found after an injury such as a sprain but most appear without a known cause.

The lump and any discomfort from it should settle. Surgery gives the best chance of preventing the ganglion from coming back.

What are the benefits of surgery?

Surgery provides the best chance of preventing the ganglion from returning.

Are there any alternatives to surgery?

A ganglion will often settle after a year or two. If your ganglion is not causing too much trouble then it is best to leave it alone.

The fluid can be taken out of the ganglion using a needle. This confirms that the lump is a ganglion and improves any discomfort for a short period of time. Alternatively your doctor may also inject the ganglion with a steriod (cortisone). Again, this may help for a short period of time.

Most ganglions are not serious, and will often settle. However, depending on where the ganglion is positioned, it can press on a nerve, leading to weakness, numbness and pain.

If this happens it is best to have the ganglion removed.

The operation usually takes between 15 and 30 minutes.

Your surgeon will make a cut over the ganglion and carefully seperate the ganglion from the nearby tendons, nerves and blood vessels. The ganglion will then be removed.

The place where the ganglion is actually removed from could be a little way from where you can feel the main lump, the cut may be larger than expected.

Your anaesthetist the various anaesthetic techniques with you and recommend the best form of anaesthesia for you. You may also have injections of local anaesthetic to help with the pain after the operation.

Your surgeon will close your skin with stitches.

Complications can happen during surgery. Specific complications associated with this operation include:

  • Damage to an artery if the ganglion is on the front of your wrist. You may then need another operation.
  • Damage to the small nerves near the ganglion. You may get a small patch of numb skin or a painful scar. This usually gets better but can be permanent.
  • Continued aching where the ganglion was near your wrist.
  • Severe pain and stiffness.

Your consultant will be able to talk you through the risk of complications.

This is a day case procedure so you will be able to go home the same day.

You will be provided with painkillers and should follow the instructions given.

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