I had a ganglion cyst in my wrist removed, and now it's come back. How often does this happen? After the first operation I was stiff for several months. Will the same thing happen this time?

Wrist ganglion cysts can be very painful and may limit motion and strength in the wrist and hand. They are often removed to give relief of symptoms. In a small number of cases, the cyst may come back.

Studies show the recurrence rate varies from none at all up to seven percent. It's uncommon but not rare. Doctors think the cyst may be more likely to come back if the entire cyst, lining, and stalk are not removed. Sometimes the stalk isn't visible. This is where the cyst connects to the joint capsule. The channel between the joint and cyst allows fluid to escape from the joint into the cyst. If the connection isn't found and removed, fluid can build up again, allowing the cyst to come back.

The operation for removing the cyst continues to improve over time. It's no longer necessary to open the wrist up to find the cyst and remove it. Now doctors can use an arthroscope to look inside the joint and take the cyst out without ever making an open cut. Even arthroscopic surgery is improving as doctors find that less and less time is needed for recovery afterwards.

You may have developed stiffness if you were put in a splint for two or three weeks after the operation. With the newer protocols after this kind of surgery, stiffness is rare.