Cysts that appear on the wrist and are painful or interfere with movement can be removed by a doctor. The most common is called a ganglion cyst. These are round growths and are usually less than an inch across. If you could see into the wrist joint, you would know that ganglion cysts look like small balloons or blisters on a stalk.

Ganglion Cyst Removal: Surgery or Other Treatments?

If doctors suggest ganglion cyst removal, they will likely begin with other approaches, including:

  • Observation: Most people with ganglion cysts on their wrist have no symptoms. Doctors often suggest waiting to treat these cysts. Up to 58 percent of ganglion cysts on the wrist may go away independently.
  • Splinting: Moving your wrist may make the cyst larger, so doctors could use a splint or brace to reduce movement. However, Splinting has several disadvantages. It can make it challenging to carry out your job duties and live your daily life, and if used long-term, splints may weaken your muscles.
  • Aspiration: Here, doctors draw fluid out of the cyst. They can remove some of the thick liquid through aspiration, but it’s not easy: some of the fluid may remain trapped in the cyst structure.

Why Surgical Ganglion Cyst Removal Is the Better Option

You may opt for removing cysts on your wrists. The reasons for wanting surgery vary. 

  • In one study, 38 percent opted for surgery because they were worried about cancer risks, even though cysts are rarely malignant.
  • Another 25 percent chose surgery because they were worried about the cosmetic appearance of the cysts. 
  • The most frequent reason that people choose surgery is to reduce pain. Even if the cysts go away, they might not stay gone. 

The Process of Surgical Ganglion Cyst Removal 

Doctors usually recommend outpatient surgery for ganglion cyst removal. A surgeon may use one of two procedures, either traditional surgery or arthroscopy. In arthroscopic surgery, the doctor makes a small incision and inserts a tiny camera into the joint. Additional small incisions allow the insertion of surgical instruments. The incisions are smaller, and there is less scarring than traditional surgery. The procedure’s challenge depends on the location of the cyst on your wrist. 

Most occur on the back or dorsal side of the hand, but about 20 percent are located near your wrist’s palm, along the underside, or volar side. These volar cysts are harder to remove.

  • Dorsal cysts should be removed by cutting across the cyst. Surgeons must remove all cysts, including the part that extends past the edge of your skin, to keep them from returning. The central vein in your wrist is often nearby; they may have to move a muscle.
  • Volar cysts may be complicated to remove; surgeons must avoid a significant nerve and the radial artery, which supply blood to your hand. It’s not uncommon for surgeons to partially remove a costly wound because it would cause nerve or vein damage. Be wary, however. Incomplete removal can lead to the cyst’s recurrence.

The Risks

Just so you’re informed, there are some other negative results of surgery. In some cases, pain in the wrist does not go away after the procedure, and some patients report a loss of grip strength following the operation. Some people lose mobility in the joint, and some damage the nerve or artery.


To reduce — or even eliminate — the above risks, follow your doctor’s post-surgery instructions to the letter. These may include pain medication, shin splints, and other guidelines such as ice pack therapy and elevation of your hand. If you notice swelling in the area during the second or third month, that’s normal. Continue your regimen and always consult your doctor or surgeon.

Book your ganglion cyst removal procedure at North Florida Hand and Wrist. We are led by Dr. Richard D. Curtis and Dr. Jose Baez, expertly-trained hand and wrist surgeons who provide patients with the absolute best care possible.