What is fluid aspiration for the hand or wrist?

Fluid aspiration is a medical procedure where doctors use a needle to drain the fluid from a ganglion cyst. This type of cyst often forms in the joints of your wrist or hand. Ganglion cysts are usually benign and not harmful. They can put pressure on the nerves, cause pain and limit movement in the affected joint.

Ganglion cysts appear as visible lumps under your skin. The cysts are filled with fluid that's similar to the fluid that lubricates your joints. They slowly fill up with fluid over time and get larger. The cysts get larger the more you move the joints in your wrists and hands.

These cysts can go away on their own. Sometimes all you need to do is limit movement and rest the joint or keep it still with a splint. If these treatments don't work, your doctor may recommend fluid aspiration.

What to expect from fluid aspiration for the hand or wrist

Fluid aspiration is an outpatient procedure. It only requires a local anesthetic. You aren't asleep, but you also don't feel pain. Your doctor numbs the skin over the ganglion cyst. You may feel some pressure at the site of the puncture, but you won't feel any pain. If you're nervous about the procedure, your doctor may prescribe a sedative for you.

Next, your doctor inserts the needle of a syringe into the cyst and draws out the fluid. The entire procedure is over in a few minutes. There's no recovery time, and you can return to normal activities immediately afterward.

It's important to note that fluid aspiration does not usually cure a ganglion cyst. These cysts attach to parts of your joints and form roots. Unless the doctor removes the root surgically, the chances of the ganglion cysts returning are high.

Common hand and wrist conditions requiring fluid aspiration

Cysts of all kinds, including ganglion cysts, are treated with fluid aspiration. Doctors don't know what the exact causes of cysts are. They're often associated with joint injuries in the wrist or hand. Damage to the joint often leads to slow leaking of fluid, which can form a ganglion cyst.

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