Ganglion cyst

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Not to be confused with Ganglion (nervous tissue structure).
Ganglion cyst
Synonyms synovial cyst,[1] Gideon's disease, Olamide's cyst, Bible cyst, Bible bump[2]
Cyst on dorsum of left hand close to the wrist
Classification and external resources
Specialty Plastic surgery
ICD-10 M67.4
ICD-9-CM 727.4
DiseasesDB 31229
eMedicine orthoped/493
MeSH D045888

A ganglion cyst is a soft tissue lump that may be associated with any joint, but most often occurs on, around, or near joints and tendons of the hands or feet.[3] These cysts are caused by leakage of fluid from the joint into the surrounding tissue.[4]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

The average size of these cysts is 2.0 cm, but excised cysts of more than 5 cm have been reported.[5] The size of the cyst may vary over time, and may increase after activity.


These cysts most frequently occur around the dorsum of the wrist and on the fingers. A common site of occurrence is along the extensor carpi radialis brevis as it passes over the dorsum of the wrist joint. Although most commonly found in the wrist, ganglion cysts also may occur in the foot.[6]

Ganglion cysts are "commonly observed in association with the joints and tendons of the appendicular skeleton, with 88% 'in communication with the multiple small joints of the hand and wrist' and 11% with those of the foot and ankle."[5] Most often, they are found near the wrist joint, especially at the scapho-lunate area, which accounts for 80% of all ganglion cysts.[citation needed]

In a 2007 study of patients whose foot lumps were being removed surgically in Glasgow, 39 of 101 cases were ganglion cysts. The study replicated earlier findings that no ganglion cysts were found on the sole or heel of the foot; the authors wrote that "Although lumps in these areas may be ganglia, the surgeon should probably consider other diagnoses in the first instance." The researchers also noted a marked preponderance of occurrence among females (85%) and that 11 of the other cases had been misdiagnosed as ganglion cysts before surgery.[7]

Ganglion cysts are not limited to the hands and feet. They may occur near the knee, commonly near the cruciate ligaments, but also they may occur at the origins of the gastrocnemius tendon and anteriorly on Hoffa's infrapatellar fat pad.[8] At the shoulder, they typically occur at the acromioclavicular joint or along the biceps tendon.[9]

From their common origin at a joint or tendon, ganglion cysts may form in a wide range of locations. Rarely, intraosseous ganglion cysts occur, sometimes in combination with a cyst in the overlying soft tissue.[5][10] Very rare cases of intramuscular ganglion cysts in the gastrocnemius muscle of the calf have been reported.[11][12] It is possible for a cyst to be displaced considerably from its connection to the joint. In one extreme case, a ganglion cyst was observed to propagate extensively via the conduit of the common peroneal nerve sheath to a location in the thigh; in such cases surgery to the proximal joint to remove the articular connection may remove the need for a riskier, more extensive surgery in the neural tissue of the thigh.[13] The cysts may intrude into the spine, which may cause pain and dysesthesia in distant extremities.[14]

It has been proposed recently that cystic adventitial disease, in which a cyst occurs within the popliteal artery near the knee, may occur by an articular mechanism, with a conduit leading from the joint, similar to the development of ganglion cysts, that spread within the peroneal nerve.[15]

Cysts also have been reported to occur near the shoulder joint that were compressing one or more nerves and causing bone erosions.[16]


The most commonly accepted cause of ganglion cysts is the "herniation hypothesis", by which they are thought to occur as "an out-pouching or distention of a weakened portion of a joint capsule or tendon sheath." This description is based on the observations that the cysts occur close to tendons and joints, the microscopic anatomy of the cyst resembles that of the tenosynovial tissue, the fluid is similar in composition to synovial fluid, and dye injected into the joint capsule frequently ends up in the cyst, which may become enlarged after activity. Dye injected into the cyst rarely enters the joint, however, which has been attributed to the formation of an effective and one-way "check valve" allowing fluid out of the joint, but not back in.[5] Synovial cysts, posttraumatic degeneration of connective tissue, and inflammation have been considered as the causes. Other possible mechanisms for the development of ganglion cysts include repeated mechanical stress, facet arthrosis, myxoid degeneration of periarticular fibrous tissues and liquefaction with chronic damage, increased production of hyaluronic acid by fibroblasts, and a proliferation of mesenchymal cells. Ganglion cysts also may develop independently from a joint.[14][17]


Ganglion cyst of the hand with multiple cystic chambers containing glairy material. The walls are composed of bland fibrous tissue with no specialized lining.

Ganglion cysts are diagnosed easily, as they are visible and pliable to touch.

Radiographs in AP and lateral views should be obtained to exclude any more serious underlying pathology.[18] Ultrasonography (US) may be used to increase diagnostic confidence in clinically suspected lesions or to depict occult cysts,[19] because intratendinous ganglia are readily distinguished from extratendinous ganglia during dynamic US, as microscopically, ganglionic cysts are thin-walled cysts containing clear, mucinous fluid.[6]


Besides the frequent choice to leave the cyst in place, surgical treatments remain the primary elective option for treatment of ganglion cysts. The progression of ganglion surgery worldwide is to use an arthroscopic or mini-opening method.[20] Alternatively, a hypodermic needle may be used to drain the fluid from the cyst (via aspiration) and a corticosteroid may be injected after the cyst is empty;[19] however, if the fluid has thickened, owing to the passage of time, this treatment is not always effective.[citation needed] There is a recurrence rate of approximately 50% following needle drainage (aspiration) of ganglion cysts.

One common traditional method of treatment for a ganglion cyst was to strike the lump with a large heavy book, causing the cyst to rupture and drain into the surrounding tissues. Historically, a Bible was the largest or only book in any given household, and was often employed for this treatment. This led to the former nickname of "Bible bumps" or "Gideon's disease" for these cysts.[2][21] This treatment risks injuring the patient.


Complications of treatment may include joint stiffness and scar formation.[19] Recurrence of the lesion is more common following excision of a volar ganglion cyst in the wrist. Incomplete excision that fails to include the stalk or pedicle also may lead to recurrence, as will failing to execute a layered closure of the incision.[22]


Recurrence rate is higher in aspirated cysts than in excised ones.[18] Ganglion cysts have been found to recur following surgery in 12%[23] to 41%[24] of patients.

A six-year outcome study of the treatment of ganglion cysts on the dorsum (back) of the wrist compared excision, aspiration, and no treatment. Neither excision nor aspiration provided long-term benefit better than no treatment. Of the untreated ganglion cysts, 58% resolved spontaneously; the post-surgery recurrence rate in this study was 39%.[25] A similar study in 2003 of ganglion cysts occurring on the palmar surface of the wrist states: "At 2 and 5 year follow-up, regardless of treatment, no difference in symptoms was found, regardless of whether the palmar wrist ganglion was excised, aspirated or left alone."[26]


Being a misnomer that has persisted into modern times,[27] the ganglion cyst is unrelated to the neural "ganglion" or "ganglion cell"; its etymology traces back to the ancient Greek γάγγλιον, a "knot" or "swelling beneath the skin",[28] which extends to the neural masses by analogy. Generally, Hippocrates is credited with the description of these cysts.[5][29]

The term "Bible cyst" (or "Bible bump") is derived from a common treatment in the past that consisted of hitting the cyst with a Bible or a similarly large book.[30] Although rarely resorted to in modern times, striking the ganglion cyst with a large tome usually is sufficient to rupture the cyst and re-accumulation is uncommon with this treatment.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "National Library of Medicine - Medical Subject Headings (MeSH) - Ganglion Cyst". Retrieved August 27, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b " The Electronic Textbook of Hand Surgery". The American Society for Surgery of the Hand Retrieved April 12, 2014. 
  3. ^ McDonald, RE; Mullens, DJ (May 2013). "Ganglion cyst treatment using the ganglion suture technique". Osteopathic Family Physician. 5 (3): 123–127. doi:10.1016/j.osfp.2013.01.006. 
  4. ^ Lawrence C (December 2005). "Skin excision and osteophyte removal is not required in the surgical treatment of digital myxoid cysts". Archives of dermatology. 141 (12): 1560–4. doi:10.1001/archderm.141.12.1560. PMID 16365258. Retrieved 2008-10-13. [permanent dead link]
  5. ^ a b c d e Craig A. Camasta, DPM (1993). "excision of the ganglion cyst" (PDF). Podiatry Institute. 
  6. ^ a b McNabb, J. W. (2005). Practical Guide to Joint and Soft Tissue Injection and Aspiration. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. pp. 62–65. ISBN 9780781753630. 
  7. ^ Duncan JM Macdonald; et al. (August 2007). "The Differential Diagnosis of Foot Lumps: 101 Cases Treated Surgically in North Glasgow Over 4 Years". Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England. 89 (3): 272–275. doi:10.1308/003588407x168235. PMC 1964714Freely accessible. PMID 17394713. 
  8. ^ Jon Arthur Jacobson (2007). Fundamentals of Musculoskeletal Ultrasound. Elsevier Health Sciences. 
  9. ^ Arend CF. Ultrasound of the Shoulder. Master Medical Books, 2013. Sample chapter available on acromioclavicular joint ganglion.
  10. ^ Muir B, Kissel JA, Yedon DF (December 2011). "Intraosseous ganglion cyst of the humeral head in a competitive flat water paddler: case report". J Can Chiropr Assoc. 55 (4): 294–301. PMC 3222705Freely accessible. PMID 22131566.  (includes MRI images)
  11. ^ Jae Jeong Park; et al. (2010). "Case Report : Intramuscular Ganglion Cyst of the Gastrocnemius Muscle". Korean Journal of Dermatology. 
  12. ^ Soonchan Park MD, et al. (October 2009). "Ruptured intramuscular ganglion cyst in the gastrocnemius medialis muscle: Sonographic appearance". Journal of Clinical Ultrasound. 37 (8): 478–481. doi:10.1002/jcu.20609. 
  13. ^ Robert J. Spinner; et al. (2012). "Re: Pure Peroneal Intraneural Ganglion Cyst: Hindsight is 20/20" (PDF). Turkish Neurosurgery. pp. 527–528. 
  14. ^ a b Sang Woo Kim; et al. (April 2011). "A Ganglion Cyst in the Second Lumbar Intervertebral Foramen". J Korean Neurosurg Soc. 49 (4): 237–240. doi:10.3340/jkns.2011.49.4.237. PMC 3098430Freely accessible. PMID 21607185.  (original source cites eight additional references for the quoted paragraph)
  15. ^ R. J. Spinner; et al. (2012-08-29). "Evidence to support that adventitial cysts, analogous to intraneural ganglion cysts, are also joint-connected.". Clin Anat. 26 (2): 267–81. doi:10.1002/ca.22152. PMID 22933403. 
  16. ^ Field, Larry D. (2003). MasterCases: Shoulder and Elbow Surgery. Thieme. p. 241. ISBN 9780865778733. 
  17. ^ Ribes, Ramón (2010). Learning Musculoskeletal Imaging. Springer. p. 197. ISBN 9783540880004. 
  18. ^ a b Pocket Guide to Musculoskeletal Diagnosis. Springer. 2005. p. 63. ISBN 9781597450096. 
  19. ^ a b c The Gale encyclopedia of surgery: a guide for patients and caregivers, Volume 1. Gale. 2003. p. 560. ISBN 9780787677213. 
  20. ^ Bismil MSK, Bismil QMK. The wide awake approach to hand and wrist ganglia: Ten-year experience, technical tips and review of macroscopic pathology and outcomes of 300 cases. OA Case Reports 2013 Nov 15;2(13):129.
  21. ^ Dacombe, PJ; Robinson, J (Mar 27, 2012). "Falling Up the Stairs: the Equivalent of 'Bashing it with a Bible' for an ACL Ganglion Cyst of the Knee". BMJ Case Reports. 2012. doi:10.1136/bcr.01.2012.5591. PMC 3316796Freely accessible. PMID 22605799. 
  22. ^ Camasta, Craig A., DPM, Excision of the Ganglion Cyst,, update 1993, 1993 33 pdf, pages 181–5
  23. ^ Gallego S, Mathoulin C (2010). "Arthroscopic resection of dorsal wrist ganglia: 114 cases with minimum follow-up of 2 years". Arthroscopy. 26 (12): 1675–1682. doi:10.1016/j.arthro.2010.05.008. PMID 20952152. 
  24. ^ Lidder S, Ranawat V, Ahrens P (2009). "Surgical excision of wrist ganglia; literature review and nine-year retrospective study of recurrence and patient satisfaction". Orthop Rev. 1 (1): e5. doi:10.4081/or.2009.e5. PMC 3143961Freely accessible. PMID 21808669. 
  25. ^ Dias JJ, Dhukaram V, Kumar P (Oct 2007). "The natural history of untreated dorsal wrist ganglia and patient reported outcome 6 years after intervention". J Hand Surg Eur. 32 (5): 502–8. doi:10.1016/j.jhse.2007.05.007. 
  26. ^ Dias J, Buch K (Apr 2003). "Palmar wrist ganglion: does intervention improve outcome? A prospective study of the natural history and patient-reported treatment outcomes". J Hand Surg Br. 28 (2): 172–6. doi:10.1016/s0266-7681(02)00365-0. 
  27. ^ J.C. Segen (1992). The Dictionary of Modern Medicine.  (see the entry for aneurysmal bone cyst, which "like pyogenic granuloma and ganglion cyst, a misnomer that has withstood the sands of time and the dint of logic")
  28. ^ "Etymology of the Greek word ganglion (γάγγλιον)". 
  29. ^ See Hippocrates' "On the Articulations" (part 40) at Wikisource
  30. ^

External links[edit]