Removal of Soft Tissue Mass

What is wrong with my foot?

Soft tissue masses are quite common around the foot and ankle. There are many types of masses that can occur such as a ganglion, cyst, bursa, fibroma. They often fluctuate in size. The picture on the front shows one of the commonest ones, a ganglion.

Why has this happened?

Soft tissue masses may be caused by a number of factors. They usually occur following irritation to the soft tissues or following an acute injury. Some occur due to an underlying bony prominence. It is also known that some people are naturally more prone to developing them than others.

Do I have to have an operation?

Padding, splints, foot orthoses and special shoes can be used to provide comfort around the soft tissue mass. In some instances it is also possible to drain some of the fluid away by aspiration (using a needle). If the area is still uncomfortable then an operation will usually be recommended.

What will the operation involve?

The soft tissue mass is excised along with its outer lining or sac.  If there is an underlying bony prominence then this is removed as well. The surgery can be performed under general or local anaesthetic.  The foot will be heavily bandaged after the operation.

How successful is the operation?

90% of people are very satisfied with the results of the operation, as they no longer have pain from the swelling. The surrounding tissues are often bruised for several weeks or months following the surgery. It is important to know that soft tissue masses can recur. The incidence of recurrence varies but is usually between 10-20%.

Are there any risks associated with the operation?

As with all operations there are risks associated with the anaesthetic.  Occasionally some patients may have complications such as infection, nerve damage or recurrence of the condition. 

What will happen after the operation?

The operation is usually day case but you may need to stay overnight in hospital.  The Podiatric or Orthopaedic surgeon will discuss this with you. You will be given special shoes to wear over your bandages and you must wear these whenever you want to walk. The shoe must be worn for 2 weeks usually. You do not need to use crutches. It can take the foot a good 3-6 months to fully settle down after surgery.

What happens when I leave hospital?

For the first 48 hours you will rest in bed with your legs elevated and should take the painkillers prescribed for you.  You will be asked to do some foot exercises during this time. The bandages will be left on for 2 weeks. You will be given an appointment to return to Outpatients or your GP to have the bandages removed.  You will be able to return to work from 1-3 weeks after the operation, depending on whether you need to stand or walk around a lot for your job. It is not recommended to drive until you come out of the post-operative shoe.