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Baker's cyst


Disease: Baker's cyst Baker's cyst
Category: Surgical diseases
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Disease Definition:

In this condition a person experiences a bulge and a feeling of tightness behind the knee, which gets worse when they fully extend their knee, or when they’re active.

A problem with the knee joint, such as arthritis or a cartilage tear could result in a Baker’s cyst. Both of these conditions will cause the knee to produce too much fluid, leading to a Baker’s cyst. Also called a popliteal cyst, every one in five people with other knee problems could develop this condition.

This condition can cause swelling and make someone uncomfortable, but treating the probable underlying problem can usually provide relief.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


These are some of the signs and symptoms that Baker’s cyst may cause:

  • Stiffness
  • Knee pain
  • Swelling behind the knee and sometimes in the leg.

However, in some cases, this condition may cause no pain and go unnoticed.


In order to swing smoothly, to reduce the friction between its moving parts and to minimize wear and tear, a door hinge needs oil, just like the cartilage and tendons in the knees that rely on a lubricating fluid called synovial fluid, which helps the legs swing smoothly and reduces friction between the moving parts of the knees. This fluid circulates throughout the knee and passes in and out of various tissue pouches (bursae) throughout the knee. The amount of synovial fluid going in and out of the bursa is regulated by a valve-like system that exists between the knee joint and the bursa on the back of the knee (popliteal bursa).

Inflammation of the knee joint, such as occurs with various types of arthritis, could cause too much synovial fluid production, resulting in Baker’s cyst. Yet another cause is a knee injury, particularly a cartilage tear.

Baker’s cyst occurs when the popliteal bursa expands because it is filled with fluid.



In some rare cases, a Baker’s cyst could burst and synovial fluid could leak into the calf region, causing sharp pain in the knee, swelling and sometimes even redness of the calf.

A person will experience these same signs and symptoms if they have a blood clot in their leg. Because a blood clot may require urgent medical treatment, a person should have prompt medical evaluation if they experience swelling and redness of the calf.


In some cases, no treatment is required for this condition and it could disappear on its own. However, when the cyst is very large and is causing a lot of pain, a person may consider these treatments:


A corticosteroid medication, such as cortisone, could be injected into the knee in order to reduce inflammation, which could relieve pain, but can’t prevent the recurrence of the cyst.
Usually, the underlying cause is treated, rather than Baker’s cyst itself.


To reduce pain and swelling, someone could use crutches, icing or a compression wrap.
To reduce the symptoms and preserve knee function, the patient could do gentle range-of-motion exercises for the muscles around the knee.
The doctor may perform needle aspiration, which is when the fluid from the knee joint is drained using a needle. This procedure is often performed under ultrasound guidance.

if the fluid in the cyst hinders knee function, or if the cyst doesn’t go away even after the underlying cause is treated, especially if the patient has osteoarthritis, they may need to be evaluated for surgery to remove the cyst if it causes pain and interferes with their ability to bend their knee.

They may be recommended surgery to remove or repair the torn cartilage in case the cause of the overproduction of synovial fluid is a cartilage tear.


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