Doctors can drain a ganglion cyst with a needle and syringe. They can also surgically remove the cyst. Although surgery lowers the chance that the cyst will return, it can cause lasting pain and stiffness.

Ganglion cysts are soft lumps of gel-like substances. They grow under the skin and may affect a person’s wrists, ankles, or feet.

Doctors have two main methods of treating ganglion cysts. They may either surgically remove the cyst or drain it using aspiration.

There are currently no pharmacological treatments for ganglion cysts. However, the cysts may disappear without any treatment.

This article will detail the treatment options for ganglion cysts. It will also discuss when and how doctors can remove them, as well as the preparation for and recovery from the removal. This article will also describe the effectiveness, risks, and cost of ganglion cyst removal.

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Aspiration is often the first option for removing a ganglion cyst, as it is less invasive than surgery. However, about half of ganglion cysts that doctors treat this way will return. At that point, surgery may be necessary.

If conservative treatment does not succeed and the cysts cause too much discomfort or pain, doctors can surgically remove ganglion cysts at the person’s request.

Some people also ask for ganglion cyst removal because they are unhappy with the appearance of the cysts.

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service (NHS) details the procedures for removing ganglion cysts.


During aspiration, a doctor uses a needle and syringe to remove as much of the contents of the ganglion cyst as possible. They may also inject steroids into the area, which may help prevent the cyst from returning.


There are two forms of surgery for removing ganglion cysts:

  • Open incisions: The surgeon makes a cut that is about 2 inches long and then removes the ganglion cyst through this cut.
  • Arthroscopic incisions: The surgeon makes smaller cuts before using an arthroscope to visualize the ganglion cyst. An arthroscope is a tiny camera that can fit through small incisions. Surgeons can pass small instruments through the other incisions to remove the ganglion cyst. This is a form of keyhole surgery.

Surgeons can perform either operation using local or general anesthesia.

The wound does not usually cause any pain. However, if a person experiences pain, doctors can treat it with medication.

If the surgery affects the wrist, a person may need to wear a sling for a few days. It can also be beneficial to regularly move the fingers to ensure that the joints remain flexible.

A person may also experience some temporary bruising, swelling, or stiffness around the surgical site. This should resolve over time.

A person may need to arrange appropriate transportation to and from the hospital or clinic on the day of the procedure.

They may need to stop taking certain medications or to fast, depending on the type of anesthetic they will receive for the procedure. A person who is preparing for surgery should discuss any questions they might have with their doctor.

Surgery to remove ganglion cysts is fairly safe. However, it can sometimes cause lasting pain or stiffness in the former location of the cyst. If this occurs, a person may need physical therapy.

Ganglion cysts have a recurrence rate of 15–20%. However, this figure may be higher for ganglion cysts that doctors treat with aspiration.

There is some evidence that even after a second surgery, the recurrence rate is 15%.

Some insurance plans may cover ganglion cyst removal. Medicaid might sometimes do the same. Medicare may not cover the removal if it considers the procedure cosmetic.

The following tables outline the cost of the procedure based on Medicare’s national averages from 2023.


The following table outlines the cost of aspiration for a ganglion cyst.

Ambulatory surgical centersHospital outpatient departments
Total cost$78$312
Doctor fee$41$41
Facility fee$37$271
Medicare pays$63$250
Patient pays$15$62

Surgical removal

The following table outlines the cost of removing a ganglion cyst at an ambulatory surgical center.

Hand or fingerFootToeLeg or ankleKnee
Total cost$1,073$1,059$1,022$1,775$1,955
Doctor fee$325$311$274$361$541
Facility fee$748$748$748$1,414$1,414
Medicare pays$858$847$817$1,420$1,564
Patient pays$214$211$203$354$390

The following table outlines the cost of removing a ganglion cyst in a hospital outpatient department.

Hand or fingerFootToeLeg or ankleKnee
Total cost$1,759$1,745$1,708$3,337$3,517
Doctor fee$325$311$274$361$541
Facility fee$1,434$1,434$1,434$2,976$2,976
Medicare pays$1,407$1,396$1,366$2,670$2,814
Patient pays$351$348$340$667$703

The following are frequently asked questions about ganglion cyst removal.

Is it possible to remove or drain a ganglion cyst yourself?

It is not possible to safely and effectively drain or remove ganglion cysts at home. If a person’s cyst is causing discomfort, they should speak with a doctor.

Is it safe to pop a ganglion cyst?

It is not safe to pop a ganglion cyst. A doctor will be able to remove the cyst if it is necessary to do so.

Will it go away on its own?

Ganglion cysts can disappear without treatment. About 50% will resolve without treatment.

Although a person should not try to treat a ganglion cyst at home, they can take steps to ease any discomfort.

A person can take over-the-counter pain relievers and use warm compresses.

If the cyst is on the wrist, a person may want to avoid repetitive hand movements. If the cyst is on the foot, wearing loose shoes might help.

Ganglion cysts are lumps made up of gelatinous fluids. They may not cause symptoms and may resolve on their own. However, in some cases, ganglion cysts can cause long-term discomfort.

Doctors have two main ways of removing ganglion cysts.

The first is aspiration, in which a doctor uses a needle and syringe to drain the cyst.

The second is when surgeons operate to remove the cyst. They can do so with open surgery or with keyhole surgery.

Despite these treatments, ganglion cysts can return, even after multiple surgeries.