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Ganglion Cysts

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Person holding wrist, palm up

General Information

Finding a lump on your hand or wrist can be a frightening experience. But most of the time, these are harmless ganglion cysts that will often disappear in time.

Commonly, ganglion cysts grow on the top of the wrist (dorsal ganglions). But they can also be found on the underside of the wrist (between the thumb and your pulse point), at the end joint of a finger or at the base of a finger. A ganglion grows out of a joint, like a balloon on a stalk that rises out of the connective tissues between bones and muscles. Inside the balloon is a thick, slippery fluid similar to the fluid in your joints. Usually, the more active you are, the larger the lump becomes; when you rest, the lump decreases in size.

Person holding wrist, palm up


In the past, these would often be treated at home by rupturing them with a large book (“the bible treatment”). Even today, many people have these cysts aspirated (injected with a needle, removing the fluid). Unfortunately, these methods are almost certain to result in recurrence; they may cause additional scar tissue to form that would make ultimate surgical resection more difficult. The best treatment option is for surgical resection; this can be done as an outpatient.

Ganglion cysts are the most common mass or lump in the hand. They are most common on the back of the wrist. These non-cancerous, fluid-filled cysts arise from the ligaments, joint linings, or tendon sheaths when they are irritated or inflamed. They may disappear or change size quickly.

Ganglion cysts do not require treatment. However, quite commonly they are painful, or may interfere with function; even if the patient does not like the appearance, Dr. Concannon can remove it surgically as an outpatient.