Ganglion cyst surgery
March 26, 2008 3:19 PM   Subscribe

I have a recurring ganglion cyst in my left wrist. I usually got a big bump for a couple of weeks, then nothing for months, but this last just kept getting worse.

After some years of saying no to surgery, I finally decided to get it operated on and I have the surgery scheduled for this friday. But...some good vacations made the bump go away again and now I don't know if they can still operate on the "area" where the cyst usually appears.

(Yes, I'm trying to locate my doctor, but he works in a clinic with LOTS of patients and so I haven't been able to get to him.)

Any personal experience with this?

Also, what's the recovery like?
posted by CrazyLemonade to Health & Fitness (17 answers total)
I got a cyst removed when I was about 16. It was "in bloom" before the operation. IANAD so I can't say whether the operation will be successful, but the recovery was a bandage over about 5 stitches. Nothing major, I just had to be careful making unusual movements with that wrist until they removed the stitches. The cyst has never returned.
posted by rabbitsnake at 3:25 PM on March 26, 2008

Ever heard of the Bible Smasher Method? I can't find anything online, but the way people used to take care of this was to...smash their wrist with a bible (or big heavy book) and the thing goes away. I had one a while ago, and while moving a dresser in my room my hand got stuck when I clumsily shoved the dresser to the wall-I heard a loud pop, and low and behold, my cyst had dissipated. It's back now, and I'm going to do it again, probably with a book. I might have a few drinks first, I'll let you know how it turns out.
posted by whiskey point at 3:28 PM on March 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks whiskey point for the suggestion, but if there's anything google has tried to get me to do, is to smash my wrist with something. Thanks but no thanks. In any way, I'm trying to find out if surgery is still needed even when there's no bump left...
posted by CrazyLemonade at 3:38 PM on March 26, 2008

I had one operated one as a kid and the MD said- "well, that'll do you for 20 years or so." And sure enough, exactly 20 years later it came back.

Smashing gets rid of it, but that wrist is extra weak and I think it's related.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:43 PM on March 26, 2008

To kinda sort actually answer your question, as I understand it, the little split in the tendon that lets the goop in is still there. This implies that the surgeon can still fix it but maybe it's too hard to see. I don' t know.
posted by small_ruminant at 3:45 PM on March 26, 2008

You probably have already done this, but have you tried wearing a wrist brace to immobilze your wrist joint? I've had success with one -- my orthopedic surgeon prescribed it for me, and I wore it during the daytime for six weeks. I had to wear it again later on when I had problems that cropped up again, but not for the last few years or so -- knock on wood. He had mentioned surgery but never explicitly recommended it.
posted by trillian at 3:51 PM on March 26, 2008

I have an occult ganglion cyst, meaning that it doesn't appear as a bump externally - the bump is inside my hand, in between my bones and tendons. Feels great, thanks for asking. Anyway, my doctor said he could operate on it, but that many times they will dissipate on their own, just like the regular kind, but without the removal of the parts that contain the goop itself, it can come back, because it basically just fills up with fluid again. The reason the bible thing works is because it bursts the cyst, but eventually it can fill back up again.

So, the way I understand it, your doctor may be able to operate on it if there is still some fluid left inside your hand, but you should ask him first. He may want you to wait until it fills up with glorious, glorious goo again.

On preview: like trillian, I just wear a wrist brace to immobilize my wrist and that has made the pain from the cyst go away (though I can't tell if it has gotten smaller, as it's not externally visible). I just wear mine at night while I sleep.
posted by bedhead at 3:55 PM on March 26, 2008

I had one on my wrist about 15 years ago. It went away by itself and hasn't come back.
posted by Hermes32 at 3:55 PM on March 26, 2008

The smash method is the way my first doctor took care of the ganglion cyst on my right thanks to doing it yourself, on purpose.

I do know that when mine was growing (80s), the concern was that the growing cyst was pushing apart the bones in my wrist - my guess would be that the cyst itself is there, regardless of how much of it shows through the surface skin, but I think you're going to just have to wait until you can catch the doctor on the phone and see what he/she thinks about going ahead with the surgery.

I eventually had mine surgically removed; the surgery itself and the healing up afterward was basically no problem, but like others who have posted, the lump I had was very visible; sorry can't help more directly with your question.
posted by faineant at 3:56 PM on March 26, 2008

I had one on my left wrist for a while. One night while playing pool at my girlfriend's I leaned against the wall and she bumped into my arm, crushing it. It hasn't come back since; it's been about a year and a half. IANAD.
posted by trim17 at 4:02 PM on March 26, 2008

My orthopedic surgeon treated mine with a cortisone injection about 10 years ago. It didn't go away entirely, but it's much, much better. I still have the occasional flare-up, especially if I do something stupid to repetitively stress the wrist like lug boxes while moving or spend a whole day using a mouse, that recedes with a day or two of wearing a brace. So if the surgery is a no-go, you might want to ask if a cortisone shot is a possibility.

(As for the Bible bashing method: my doc says you're as likely to break a bone as the cyst, so not a real good option.)
posted by weebil at 6:33 PM on March 26, 2008

Best answer: I have had a recurring ganglion cyst like yours for ten years. It shows up for about two weeks, then disappears for many months at a time.

I was in the exact situation you describe. I had the surgery scheduled, and a week in advance the cyst went away. Not really thinking about it, I showed up for surgery anyway, the nurses prepped me, and when the surgeon got there he said [I'm paraphrasing], "Are you stupid? I can't operate on this. Go home." And then I got billed for the IV and all the inpatient stuff even though I never had the surgery.

I haven't tried again since because the damn thing never sticks around for the 6-8 weeks it takes to get the surgery scheduled.

However, twice I've had the cyst drained with a syringe. The doc sticks a needle right into your wrist and sucks out the goop. This has basically the same effect as smashing with a bible but is less painful and less dangerous. This doesn't prevent it from coming back, like the surgery, but makes it go away for a while.
posted by miagaille at 6:59 PM on March 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for your answers. I finally got to speak to the doctor, on the phone, and he told me to cancel the surgery and to check back with him in a month.

If anyone cares: I came to the conclusion today that apart from the relaxing vacations (I mostly get the cyst during times of stress and lots of work), I did a LOT of shopping one day and the carrying of heavy bags seem to have helped with the going down of the bump. I guess the carrying of heavy things works both ways...
posted by CrazyLemonade at 7:23 PM on March 26, 2008

My wife had surgery done on one of these, on her wrist; it came back.

Years later, we decided to do the bible smash method (with a cookbook), and just for fun we videotaped it. Not only didn't it hurt at all (sez wifey) but it was pretty damn funny.

The first time didn't completely eliminate it, just significantly reduce it, and the second attempt (the next day) did hurt, but only because I didn't quite hit it right and caught her wristbone along with it hurt about as much as you'd expect getting hit on the wristbone with a book does. That did away with the lump, though, and it hasn't come back yet.

My personal suggestion is to cancel the surgery, and when it comes back, have someone smack it. Videotape it as well; few things are as funny as watching a person dreading something, and then getting smacked with a book.
posted by davejay at 10:39 PM on March 26, 2008

Best answer: I'm going to hop in here and say what I say in every ganglion cyst thread I've ever seen on Metafilter: Please do not smash your wrist with a book. See an MD instead. It's very likely that the MD's preferred method of treatment will not be to hit you really hard.

Also, Mefites: Please do not advise people to smash their wrist with a book.

Hitting yourself with a really heavy book, while it may have worked for you, may not work so well for everyone. And if it's not a ganglion cyst, they could really hurt themselves. There's some delicate stuff in there that might not respond so well to book-smashing.
posted by jennyjenny at 8:28 AM on March 27, 2008

I'm glad I checked back. I should have said it better, and I'm sorry for the confusion, but I didn't mean destroy your appendages - you don't need to get Hulk Hogan to come in and bash your wrist, but it DID work for me as well as other people, and it was a suggestion, not a clear cut answer. Thank you all for the good answers, this problem seems to be more common than I thought. I think I'll go with miagaille's syringe method next time. Again, please don't hurt yourselves.
posted by whiskey point at 4:35 PM on March 27, 2008

Had the surgery 15ish years ago. Hasn't come back. No pain, just a wrapped wrist for a week or so. The thought of smashing it with a book makes my skin crawl... just get the surgery. Fun fact: I gained about 3 degrees of mobility in my wrist after the surgery compared to my other wrist.
posted by jeversol at 4:45 PM on March 30, 2008

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