To review the clinical outcomes of treatment for adult wrist ganglions and to conduct a meta-analysis comparing the 2 most common options: open surgical excision and aspiration.

The review methodology was registered with PROSPERO. We performed a systematic search of MEDLINE and EMBASE for articles published between 1990 and 2013. Included studies reported treatment outcomes of adult wrist ganglions. Two independent reviewers performed screening and data extraction. We evaluated the methodological quality of randomized controlled trials (RCT) and cohort studies using the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews and the Newcastle-Ottawa Scale, respectively; Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluation was used to evaluate the quality of evidence.

A total of 753 abstracts were identified and screened; 112 full-text articles were reviewed and 35 studies (including 2,239 ganglions) met inclusion criteria for data extraction and qualitative synthesis. Six studies met criteria for meta-analysis, including 2 RCTs and 4 cohort studies. In RCTs surgical excision was associated with a 76% reduction in recurrence compared with aspiration. Randomized controlled trial quality was moderate. In cohort studies surgical excision was associated with a 58% reduction in recurrence compared with aspiration. Cohort study quality was very low. In cohort studies aspiration was not associated with a significant reduction in recurrence compared with reassurance. Across all studies mean recurrence for arthroscopic surgical excision (studies, 11; ganglions, 512), open surgical excision (studies, 14; ganglions, 809), and aspiration (studies, 12; ganglions, 489) was 6%, 21%, and 59%, respectively. Mean complication rate for arthroscopic surgical excision (studies, 6; ganglions, 221), open surgical excision (studies, 6; ganglions, 341), and aspiration (studies, 3; ganglions, 134) was 4%, 14%, and 3%, respectively.

Open surgical excision offers significantly lower chance of recurrence compared with aspiration in the treatment of wrist ganglions. Arthroscopic excision has yielded promising outcomes but data from comparative trials are limited and have not demonstrated its superiority. Further RCTs are needed to increase confidence in the estimate of effect and to compare complications and recovery.

Therapeutic I.