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Skin Cryosurgery

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Aug 31, 2022.

What do I need to know about skin cryosurgery?

Skin cryosurgery, or cryotherapy, is a procedure to treat a skin lesion by freezing it. A skin lesion is a growth on your skin. Cryosurgery uses a cold substance, usually liquid nitrogen, to kill the lesion without damaging nearby healthy skin. You may need cryosurgery more than once.

How do I prepare for skin cryosurgery?

Your healthcare provider will talk to you about how to prepare for cryosurgery.

What happens during skin cryosurgery?

  • Your healthcare provider may scrape the top of your lesion. He or she will apply the cold substance with a cotton swab or spray. A gel and a cryoprobe may also be used. A cryoprobe is a long, pointed tool that is placed on your skin lesion.
  • The cold substance is left on for 5 to 30 seconds, until a halo of ice forms around your lesion. Your healthcare provider may check the temperature inside your lesion by inserting a needle with a thermometer. The frozen lesion will slowly thaw out. Freezing and thawing may be repeated. The skin cells start to die when they are frozen.

What will happen after skin cryosurgery?

A bandage will cover your lesion area to keep it clean and dry. You can go home when your healthcare provider says it is okay. Your lesion area may heal in 4 to 6 weeks. Larger areas may take as long as 14 weeks to heal.

What are the risks of skin cryosurgery?

  • You may have discomfort, burning, or pain during and after your skin cryosurgery. Your skin may be red or swollen, or a blister may form. Your skin may bleed, or you may get an infection. If cryosurgery was done to treat a lesion on your face, you may have a headache after the procedure.
  • The treated skin may take longer than expected to heal, and you may get a scar. A new lesion may grow in the same area. You may need cryosurgery again. Your nerves may be damaged and your skin may be numb. Skin cryosurgery may also cause your treated skin to get lighter or darker or to lose hair.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.