What happens if a baker’s cyst goes untreated?

Usually nothing happens if a baker’s cyst goes untreated. A baker’s cyst is just a sign that something else is wrong with your knee. If you injured your knee and it gets swollen, then you know that you did something to your knee. A baker’s cyst is the same sort of thing, it’s just that the swelling is in the back of your knee. Left untreated it may enlarge and be uncomfortable, but it’s not going to cause any direct damage in your knee. I frequently see baker’s cysts in my practice as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs. And when I see them, I know that something is going on inside the knee joint. Frequently, people will get an MRI of their knee joint and their PCP will tell them that they found a baker’s cyst, but this is only part of the story.

What is a baker’s cyst?

Almost every joint in your body is surrounded by a capsule, which is a thick layer of tissue that separates the joint space from the surrounding structures. It just so happens that the weakest part of the knee joint capsule is in the back. When your knee gets injured it can sometimes swell a lot. And sometimes all of that extra fluid in your knee will find the weakest part of the knee joint capsule and balloon out. This is what a baker’s cyst is. A baker’s cyst is just extra knee joint fluid trying to escape out the backdoor. Oftentimes these cysts will have 1 way valves so that once fluid goes into the cyst, it won’t come back out.

What causes a baker’s cyst?

A Baker’s cyst is caused by something in the knee joint giving off extra fluid. When cartilage gets injured, it gives off a lot of fluid, fluid can also be generated by ligament injuries and meniscal tears. Arthritis is also a common knee joint fluid generator that can contribute to the formation of  baker’s cyst. 

How do I get rid of my baker’s cyst?

To get rid of your baker’s cyst you need to find out what is causing it. Is it from arthritis, a cartilage injury, a meniscus tear? You need to take care of whatever is causing it to decrease your knee swelling, and in turn your baker’s cyst should go away on its own. Some will stick a needle into the cyst in an attempt to drain it, but this can be dangerous. The popliteal artery is also in the back of the knee, and without imaging you may end up hitting it. Also, the cyst will just come right back because you aren’t getting rid of the fluid source, which is coming from inside the knee itself. In rare cases they can be surgically removed, but I have never seen this surgery done in my time as an orthopedic surgeon in Colorado Springs. 

I hope I was able to answer your questions about what happens if a baker’s cyst goes untreated. 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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