Foot and Ankle Cyst Removal
Have you found a firm or spongy, movable lump in your ankle or foot? Perhaps one that seems to have appeared overnight? First, don’t panic. Chances are it is not a malignant tumor, but a Ganglion cyst! While we often associate Ganglion cysts with the hands or wrists, these cysts are fairly common in the foot and ankle joints as well.
While most cysts are not dangerous, a painful cyst or cyst that interferes with mobility can be removed with the help of an experienced orthopedic foot and ankle specialist.
What is a Ganglion cyst?
A Ganglion cyst is a benign, fluid-filled sac that forms in between the joints and tendons. A cyst may develop response to trauma or joint irritation, but quite often, a cyst will appear for no known reason at all.
Ganglion cysts can behave quite unpredictably, forming gradually or very suddenly. They may get bigger (fill with more fluid) during activity, and shrink while at rest. It’s common for a cyst to disappear on its own–and sometimes return just as unpredictably.
Do I need to have a foot or ankle cyst removed?
Most foot and ankle cysts, including Ganglion cysts, are not dangerous and do not need to be specifically treated. That said, you should always have any unusual lump, growth or change in tissue appearance evaluated by an experienced physician to rule out more serious issues.
Mild cysts that do not cause pain can often be helped by immobilization with a splint or brace to reduce irritation that may contribute to the cyst’s growth.
Your doctor may recommend having the cyst drained or surgically removed if:
- It is causing you pain
- Your joint movement is restricted
Aspiration of a cyst (a.k.a draining out the fluid)
A painful cyst that is not interfering with joint movement can often be alleviated by draining the fluid inside it, via in-office procedure called “aspiration.” Aspirating a cyst can immediately relieve pressure and pain.
During a cyst aspiration, the doctor will sterilize the skin on the area, apply a local anesthetic, and then drain fluid from the cyst with a hollow needle. In most cases, they will follow up with an injection of steroid to prevent inflammation after the procedures.
Recovery after aspiration is usually quick. You may need to wear a brace or splint on the affected joint for a few days, but you should able to return to activity shortly thereafter.
Cysts sometimes return after aspiration; in this case, the procedure can be repeated.
Surgical removal of a foot or ankle cyst
If a cyst is very painful, limits mobility, or recurs after aspiration, surgical removal, or excision, may be the best option. Our surgeons perform surgical cyst excision as an outpatient procedure, typically using local or regional anesthesia, depending on the patient.
Through a small incision, the cyst sac as well as the tissue where the cyst attaches to the tendon or joint (cyst root) are removed. Recovery is usually fairly quick; patients may have some swelling and discomfort for a few days, and then resume normal activities within 2 to 6 weeks, depending on the location and size of the cyst removed.
Concerned about a cyst on your foot or ankle? We can help.
While most cysts are not dangerous, it’s best to leave nothing to chance. For experienced care you can trust, come see our team at Carolina Hand & Sports Medicine. Call 828-253-7521 or contact us online for an appointment.