Can you pop a ganglion cyst?

Can you pop a ganglion cyst? The short answer is yes, you can pop it, but don’t be surprised if it comes right back. I frequently see patients with ganglion cysts in my practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs, and I can tell you that there is a very high probability that if you pop it, it will come back.

What is a ganglion cyst?

If you have a ganglion cyst, then you are not alone. Ganglion cysts make up between 60-70% of all hand masses; they are very common. A ganglion cyst is filled with fluid that has a similar consistency to snot. The fluid that supplies a ganglion cyst usually comes from a tendon sheath or your wrist joint. Each ganglion cyst has a stalk that usually goes down to the joint of your wrist. This is why popping it doesn’t work. You may burst the ganglion cyst and get rid of the fluid, but you don’t get rid of the stalk, and with an intact stalk it just regrows. The good news is ganglion cysts are not cancerous or harmful in any real way. Most people don’t have pain with their ganglion cyst, although some do if the cyst happens to be impinging upon nearby structures.

How should I get rid of my ganglion cyst?

The first and foremost thing you should do is get an accurate diagnosis from your doctor to make sure that what you think is a ganglion is actually a ganglion cyst. There are other types of cysts, and you really want to make sure you know what it is before you go after it. Most patients I see for ganglion cysts as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs have already tried a few things before I see them. I do not recommend popping them as you can hurt yourself, and your ganglion cyst will just come back and frustrate you even more. Sometimes, your doctor can stick a needle into the cyst to drain off fluid. Doing this can get rid of the cyst, but it has less than a 50% success rate. The most surefire way to get rid of your ganglion cyst is to have it surgical removed in an outpatient setting. Your surgeon will be able to find the stalk and trace it back down to the joint line and then remove it in its entirety. Even with surgery, there is still a 5% chance that it can come back if it’s on the back of your wrist, and a 15-20% chance that it can come back if it’s on the front! 

I hope I was able to answer all of your questions about if you can pop a ganglion cyst. If you still have any questions or want to schedule an in person or virtual consult, please feel free to contact me.

-Written by Dr. Daniel Paull

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