A ganglion is a small fluid filled sac, or cyst, that can develop on the wrist. Ganglions typically develop over the wrist joint and are filled with a thick, sticky, jellylike material. The exact cause of ganglion cysts is unclear; however they are thought to be caused by trauma or imperfections in the joint capsule. Ganglion cysts are more common in women and typically affect individuals between the ages of 20 to 40-years-old. Ganglion cysts can be painless and require little intervention, or they can be a source of constant aching and pain, made worse by wrist movement. If the cyst is connected to a tendon weakness may result in the hand or fingers. A Genesis Orthopedics & Sports Medicine physician can diagnose a ganglion cyst through the use of an x-ray, ultrasound, or by using a syringe to draw out some of the cyst fluid. The majority of ganglion cysts disappear on their own, but if intervention is needed treatment options are available.
Aspiration is a procedure in which the fluid is drawn out of the cyst through the use of a syringe. This procedure is a temporary fix used for immediate relief of pain and size reduction. If the cyst is attached to the joint or tendon sheath it will eventually grow back.
Ganglion cysts can become irritated and increase in size due to mobility of the wrist. Bracing or splinting the wrist reduces range of motion and relieving some of the pressure put on the cyst, ultimately reducing pain. This treatment method can also reduce irritation of the cyst causing it to gradually decrease in size. Bracing may be used with other treatments including physical therapy if the wrist or hand has been weakened as a result of the cyst.
Surgery is used as a last-resort treatment when all other treatments have failed. The surgery of a ganglion cyst is called an excision and involves removing the cyst and the part of the joint capsule or tendon where the root of the ganglion resides.