A ganglion cyst is a swelling filled with jelly-like fluid that sticks out from the lining of a joint or tendon. While these lumps are usually harmless, you may need surgery to remove one if it becomes painful.
A ganglion is a smooth, soft lump under the skin, which most often occurs around the wrist or ankle, or at the base of the palm of the hand. You may need surgery to remove the lump if it is painful or other attempts to treat it, such as draining the fluid, have not worked.
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You will have a formal consultation with a healthcare professional. During this time you will be able to explain your medical history, symptoms and raise any concerns that you might have.
We will also discuss with you whether any further diagnostic tests, such as scans or blood tests, are needed. Any additional costs will be discussed before further tests are carried out.
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Our dedicated team will also give you tailored advice to follow in the run up to your visit.
We understand that having surgery can potentially be a time of anxiety and worry. Our experienced and caring medical staff will be there for you, providing reassurance, every step of the way.
A ganglion removal operation can be performed under either a general anaesthetic, meaning you will be asleep during the procedure, or a local anaesthetic, meaning you will be awake but the area around your cyst will be numb. The operation usually lasts about 30 minutes, once the anaesthesia has taken affect.
During the operation, your surgeon will make a cut over your ganglion. He or she will remove it from the joint or tendon lining without disturbing the surrounding structures. Where a ganglion is tricky to remove, your surgeon will make the cut larger than the size of the lump. At the end of the operation, the cut is closed with stitches.
The operation to remove a ganglion is routinely performed as a day case procedure, meaning you won't need to stay overnight in hospital.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.
The cut made at the site of the ganglion will be covered with a bandage. If the ganglion was on your hand or wrist, your arm will be placed in a high sling. Your arm or leg (depending on where the ganglion was) may be raised on a pillow in bed.
If you need them, continue taking painkillers as advised by the hospital. You should keep the dressing clean and dry. Attaching a plastic bag over the top of the dressing or wrapping it in cling film will keep it dry while you take a shower or bath. You can usually remove the sling after 48 hours and any splint or cast after five days.
For the first week, you should keep the arm or leg that has been treated raised on two or three pillows at night and when resting. This helps to reduce swelling. It is important to gently bend and flex the fingers and wrist of the affected hand (or toes and ankle) while the dressing is in place. Physiotherapy is not usually needed.
Avoid wearing jewellery on the affected hand or foot until you have seen your surgeon at your follow-up appointment. You must follow your surgeon’s advice about driving and returning to work.
Once you’re ready to be discharged from hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive.
Even after you’ve left hospital, we’re still looking after you every step of the way. After a ganglion removal operation, we will provide you with all the appropriate medication, advice on what to do and not to do and follow-up support.
Typically your consultant will want to see you about two weeks after your treatment to see how you’re doing.
Like all medical treatments, complications following a ganglion removal operation can occur including excessive swelling, delayed healing and damage to surrounding skin nerves. If you experience any of these symptoms, please call us straight away. Occasionally, a ganglion reappears in the same place, but this is not common. Your consultant will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
If you have any questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.
Spire Murrayfield is an approximate 20 minute drive from Edinburgh Airport or 10 minutes from Haymarket train station. Regular buses serve the area well. Spire Shawfair Park is located to the south east of the city centre close to the City Bypass and the Royal Infirmary at 10 Easter Shawfair, Edinburgh, EH22 1FE.
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