Ruptured Baker's Cyst

A Baker's cyst is also sometimes referred to as a popliteal cyst and this is the buildup of the synovial fluid which can form behind a person’s knee. Most people notice it as swelling near the back of their knees. Baker's cysts are most common when a person’s knee is damaged because of gout, injury, arthritis, or inflammation of joint lining. Treatment will be most successful if it involves treating the underlying cause as well.

What Are the Symptoms of Ruptured Baker's Cyst?

In many cases, there is no pain associated with these cysts although it may be unpleasant to have a Baker's cyst. If symptoms occur, they might include stiffness or tightness behind the knee, swelling behind a person’s knee which worsens when standing. Sometimes one may experience slightly pain from the area behind the knee spreading to the upper calf. This is most likely felt when the knee is straightened or bended all the way.

In some cases, a ruptured Baker's cyst will occur, which involves the pocket of synovial fluid tearing opening then draining into tissues of a person’s lower leg. This may lead to redness and swelling in that portion of the leg.

What Causes Baker's Cyst?

It is typically caused by swelling within the knee. This swelling is due to extra synovial fluid, which is responsible for lubricating the knee joint. If the pressure begins to build up, the fluid will bulge and probably then enter the back area of the knee.

Baker's cysts typically are caused by:

  • Inflammation of the knee joint with various types of arthritis
  • A knee injury, such as a cartilage tear

How to Diagnose Baker's Cyst

It is easy to diagnose a Baker's cyst while standing behind the patient with their knees fully extended. The cyst can be felt by touching if the knee is partially flexed but the doctor still needs an ultrasonography to confirm the final diagnosis. In some cases, if the doctor suspects a popliteal artery aneurysm, he or she may aspirate the synovial fluid out of the cyst and then use an MRI to confirm a Baker's cyst.

It is rare that a deep vein thrombosis(DVT) may occur. And it is common for a burst cyst to lead to calf pain, redness, and swelling that resembles thrombophlebitis. The doctor needs to exclude this issue if you have a Baker's cyst confirmed via ultrasonography and MRI. Your doctor is more likely to suggest more tests if the Baker's cyst contains compressed vascular structures that lead to leg edema since this can develop into DVT.

How Is a Ruptured Baker's Cyst Treated?

In many cases, a ruptured Baker's cyst will not occur as the Baker's cyst will simply resolve itself without any treatment. Your doctor may, however, suggest one of the followings:


NSAIDs can help reduce pain and fever. When taken in higher doses, they can also reduce swelling/inflammation. They don’t contain steroids and are non-narcotic. Ibuprofen is a common example.

Rest and Exercise

  • Icepacks can also reduce inflammation. Just be careful not to put the icepack in direct contact with your skin.
  • Resting will prevent the knee from being exposed to irritation. Your doctor might suggest how long to rest your knee for and provide alternative methods of exercise.
  • Crutches can reduce the weight put on the knee joint, allowing you to walk without pain while your ruptured Baker's cyst heals.
  • Compression bandages also help support your knee.

Most of the time when an underlying cause lead to the cyst, your doctor will treat the cause as opposed to the cyst.


In cases when the self-help methods don’t work or the swelling is painful or large, your doctor may suggest the surgical methods:

  • Corticosteroid injections involve injecting a corticosteroid like cortisone into the knee that is affected. This reduces inflammation and relieves pain, but doesn’t prevent recurrence.
  • Arthroscopy involves surgically removing the cyst and repairing the joint. It might be necessary if there is extensive damage to the knee joint. This process involves endoscopically examining the inside portion of the joint then using the arthroscope to treat the issues. It will require either a general or local anesthetic and can be done as an outpatient or inpatient.

How to Prevent It

It is common to injure your knee, putting yourself at risk of a ruptured Baker's cyst during sporting activities. By preventing trauma to the knees, you help reduce the risk of developing a Baker's cyst for the first time or the issue recurring. You can prevent knee trauma while exercising or engaging in sports by taking the following steps:

  • Warm up your knee joints as well as soft tissue. Do this by gently going through relevant motions for your activity or sport. Also, stretch your muscles prior to the activity.
  • Wear supportive footwear designed for particular activity.
  • Try turning by using the balls of the feet instead of turning through your knees.
  • Be sure to cool down by doing sustained and gentle stretches after sports.
  • Stop exercising or your activity right awaywhen your knee were injured, apply ice to the area and visit your doctor for advice as soon as possible.

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