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Skin Cryosurgery


What is 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.

Why do I need skin cryosurgery?

  • Your skin lesion does not go away after treatment with medicine.
  • You have a noncancerous lesion, such as an angioma, seborrheic keratosis, or wart.
  • You have a precancerous lesion, such as actinic keratosis.
  • You have a cancerous lesion, such as basal cell or squamous cell cancer.

What happens during skin cryosurgery?

Your healthcare provider may scrape the top of your lesion. Your healthcare provider will apply the cold substance with a cotton swab or spray. He may also use gel and a cryoprobe. 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 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. If you have certain medical conditions, the cold may decrease your blood pressure, and you may pass out.

What should I expect after skin cryosurgery?

Small wounds may heal in 4 to 6 weeks. Large wounds may take as long as 14 weeks to heal.

  • Wound care: Carefully wash the wound with soap and water. If your wound has loose crusts, dampen a piece of gauze with hydrogen peroxide and gently remove them. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your bandages when they get wet or dirty.
  • Medicines:
    • Antibiotic ointment: This helps fight or prevent an infection.
    • Steroid cream: This will help decrease redness, pain, and swelling.

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.