What is a ganglion?
A ganglion is the most common swelling of the hand. It is not cancerous, but can cause symptoms such as aching, or pain when knocked. Occasionally the ganglion can grow near a nerve, causing compression and symptoms such as numbness or tingling.
The cause of ganglions is still unknown, although they may be caused by trauma. One theory is that the covering of joints (synovium) may be the cause, another theory that the collagen of the joint has degraded and led to the swelling.
Where do ganglions occur and how are they treated?
They can occur virtually anywhere on the arm, but most commonly can occur in one of four sites:
Finger - ganglions may occur at the joint near the nail. These used to be called mucous cysts, and can cause the nail to have grooves or splits. They are treated by surgical excision, which may involve moving some nearby skin to close the resulting skin defect
Base of finger - a firm lump under the palm skin may be a ganglion. They are commonly at the base of the middle finger. Again treatment is by surgical excision
Wrist - ganglions can appear on the front or back of the wrist and may originate from the wrist joint. Surgical excision is the choice of treatment
Despite best efforts, ganglions can recur. It may be the original ganglion returning, or another one forming in the same site. Further procedures can be performed to remove the recurrence, although more swellings can still occur.
What other options are there for ganglions?
In days of old, the treatment would be a 'sharp bash with the family Bible'. This would rupture the ganglion, but we would not recommend this method; recurrence of the ganglion is common, as are broken hands!!!
Occasionally specialists may aspirate the ganglion, whereby a needle is passed into the ganglion to suck out the contents. Whilst this may temporarily remove the swelling, it very often recurs.
Ganglions can sometimes rupture spontaneously, possibly having been knocked against an object without noticing. The swelling, however, often recurs.
You should carefully discuss the possible options with your specialist before embarking on a treatment plan.
Any procedure involving skin incision can also result in unfavourable scarring, wound infection, or bleeding. This list of risks is not exhaustive, and you should discuss possible complications with your specialist. Whilst these risks will seem very worrysome, and indeed can be serious, it should also be borne in mind that many people have no postoperative problems whatsoever.
The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding if this is the right procedure for you. Please also read our disclaimer