Ganglion Cysts

What are Ganglion Cysts?

Ganglion cysts are fluid-filled cysts that can form on any joint on the hands or wrist, but are most frequently seen on the back of the wrist. When cysts are small and come and go without symptoms, they typically do not require treatment. However, patients who have large, symptom-producing cysts that do not go away usually require treatment.

What Causes Ganglion Cysts?

Ganglion cysts typically occur in patients between 15 and 40 years old. They appear more frequently in women than men. The causes of these cysts remains unknown. They are believed to be caused by weakness of the joint capsule, ligaments, or tendon sheath due to arthritis, joint inflammation, or an injury.

How are Cysts Diagnosed?

Ganglion cysts are usually diagnosed with a physical exam. If further testing is required, Dr. Donnelly may order an ultrasound to examine the inside of the wrist. This will help to determine if the cyst is fluid-filled or solid.

What are the Symptoms of Ganglion Cysts?

  • A lump on the back of the wrist that fluctuates in size
  • Pain made worse by joint movement
  • Weakness in the fingers

Treatment Options

Non Surgical

Initial treatment is done using conservative, non-surgical measures. Immobilization is used to decrease pain and inflammation that is associated with movement. Aspiration is done to decrease cyst size and symptoms. During the quick procedure, Dr. Donnelly uses a needle to aspirate fluid from the cyst.


Surgical treatment is used when non-surgical treatment proves to be ineffective. Ganglion cysts are surgically treated by removing the cyst and parts of surrounding structures. The procedure is done on an outpatient basis and usually takes less than an hour.

Recovery Time

Recovery time depends on the method of treatment. If the cyst was treated using aspiration, normal movement may resume within a few days of the procedure. If ganglion cysts are removed through surgical means, then the hand will need to remain in a splint for seven to ten days.