Ganglion Cysts: Non-Invasive Treatment or Surgery?

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Ganglion cysts, fluid-filled sacs or cysts that develop on top of a joint, ligament or tendon, can be a real pain…literally. While sometimes ganglion cysts are more of a nuisance than a medical problem, they can also turn into quite a painful condition that needs to be treated. Depending on the severity of the cyst, your podiatrist may suggest a non-invasive treatment or surgery to remove the cyst.

Ganglion cysts are almost never cancerous, but finding a fluid-filled sac on the foot may be quite unnerving when they appear. In some cases these cysts disappear on their own with no treatment, but can recur at any time, especially if there is any trauma to the foot. A podiatrist will sometimes take an ultrasound of the cyst to verify that it is a ganglion cyst; but if the cyst is not fluid-filled, other tests can be run to determine another diagnosis.

If it is indeed a ganglion cyst, a podiatrist can then use a syringe to drain fluid from the cyst, also known as needle aspiration, followed by a steroid injection at the site in order to promote healing. The ganglion cyst and surrounding area of the foot is numbed for this simple office procedure. While this treatment is less invasive, the ganglion cyst has a higher rate of recurrence than with surgical removal.

If a ganglion cyst continues to re-appear, or if the cyst is painful, a more aggressive approach to treatment may be recommended by your podiatrist. Ganglion cysts can sometimes form in areas that interfere with the function and movement of the foot or ankle. In these cases, surgical removal of the cyst is needed.

A ganglion cyst removal is typically an outpatient procedure. Depending on how large the cyst is as well as personal preference, you may be given either local or general anesthesia. After surgery, you may be required to keep your foot immobilized in a cast or boot and walk with crutches.

As with any surgery, you may have some discomfort, tenderness, and swelling at the surgical site. This can be easily managed with pain medication, keeping the foot elevated and getting adequate rest. Your podiatrist will advise you when it’s same to resume normal activity, normally around two to six weeks following surgery. You can expect to have a small scar as a result of the cyst removal.

Complications from surgery are possible but highly unlikely. Chances of the cyst returning after surgical removal are also highly unlikely, but not impossible. It’s best to talk with your podiatrist to form the best treatment plan for you.

Click here to request an appointment with any of our podiatric specialists at Triad Foot Center. We have three convenient office locations in the Piedmont Triad.

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