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Ganglion Cyst Removal: What to Expect at Home

Ganglion cyst, with bones and tendons of the wrist

Your Recovery

Ganglion cyst removal is surgery to remove a ganglion that has caused pain or numbness or made it hard to do your activities. A ganglion is a small sac, or cyst, filled with a clear fluid that is thick like jelly. The cyst may look like a bump on your hand or wrist. Less often, a ganglion can appear on the feet, ankles, knees, or shoulders.

The doctor made a cut (incision) in the skin over the ganglion. He or she removed the ganglion and the connecting tissue that allowed fluid to collect there. Then the incision was closed with stitches. You may have a splint over the area to limit movement until the area heals.

Your doctor will tell you when it's okay to move the area. He or she may give you instructions on when you can do your normal activities again.

Ganglions sometimes come back. New ganglions also may form in the area.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for you to recover. But each person recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Activity

  • For 1 to 2 weeks after surgery on your hand or wrist, avoid activities that involve repeated arm or hand movements. These may include typing, using a computer mouse, vacuuming, or carrying things in the affected hand. Do not use power tools. And avoid other activities that make your hand vibrate.
  • If the procedure involved your foot or ankle, ask your doctor if you need to do less walking or driving for a while.
  • You may be able to go back to work 1 or 2 days after surgery. It depends on the type of work you do and how you feel.
  • You may shower, but do not get the area wet until your doctor says it's okay. Keep the bandage dry by covering it with plastic. Do not take a bath, swim, use a hot tub, or soak your hand until your doctor says it's okay.

Diet

  • You can eat your normal diet when you feel well. If your stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.

Medicines

  • Your doctor will tell you if and when you can restart your medicines. He or she will also give you instructions about taking any new medicines.
  • If you take aspirin or some other blood thinner, be sure to talk to your doctor. He or she will tell you if and when to start taking this medicine again. Make sure that you understand exactly what your doctor wants you to do.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave you a prescription medicine for pain, take it as prescribed.
    • If you are not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if you can take an over-the-counter medicine.

Incision care

  • Leave the bandage on your hand until the doctor says it is okay to remove it. This is usually 2 or 3 days after surgery.
  • After your doctor says you can take off your bandage, wash the area daily with clean water, and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. They can slow healing. You may cover the area with a gauze bandage if it oozes fluid or rubs against clothing. Change the bandage every day.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • If you have a splint, do not take it off unless your doctor tells you to. Follow the splint care instructions your doctor gives you. Be careful not to put the splint on too tight.

Exercise

  • Follow your doctor's directions on when and how to move the area to keep it flexible and help reduce swelling. Your doctor may have you wear a splint or brace for a short time after the surgery.
  • If the ganglion is on your wrist or hand, you may need therapy after you heal. This can help you regain movement, strength, and grip in your wrist and hand. To get the best results, you need to do the exercises correctly and as often and as long as your doctor or your physical or occupational therapist tells you to.

Ice and elevation

  • If you have swelling, put ice or a cold pack on the area for 10 to 20 minutes at a time. Try to do this every 1 to 2 hours for the next 3 days (when you are awake) or until the swelling goes down. Put a thin cloth between the ice and your skin or splint.
  • Prop up the area on a pillow anytime you sit or lie down for the first 2 or 3 days. Try to keep it above the level of your heart. This will help reduce swelling.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • You passed out (lost consciousness).
  • You have chest pain, are short of breath, or cough up blood.

Call your doctor or nurse call line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • You have pain that does not get better after you take pain medicine.
  • You have loose stitches, or your incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your incision.
  • You have symptoms of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • The area is cool or pale or changes colour.
  • The area is tingly, weak, or numb.
  • You can't move the area.
  • Your splint feels too tight.

Watch closely for any changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse call line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.