Cryotherapy, also known as cryoablation, involves the application of extreme cold, typically using substances like liquid nitrogen or argon gas, by a healthcare provider to freeze and eliminate abnormal tissues. It is employed for the treatment of various skin conditions and certain cancers such as prostate and liver cancer, with the capability to target both external (skin) and internal (body) tissues for therapeutic purposes.

Types of cryotherapies

Cryotherapy methods for freezing tissue vary based on the location of the abnormal tissue:

  • External cryotherapy: When dealing with abnormal tissue on the skin’s surface, healthcare providers typically employ either a spraying device or a cotton swab to administer the freezing agent. This external cryotherapy process induces blistering and subsequent peeling of the frozen skin, allowing for the growth of new, healthy skin.
  • Internal cryotherapy: For conditions located inside the body, such as precancerous cells or tumors, a specialized instrument known as a cryoprobe is utilized. The cryoprobe is inserted through a small incision or cut in the skin. During internal cryotherapy, freezing causes the abnormal cells to die, and the immune system plays a role in eliminating this tissue from the body.

Reasons for undergoing the procedure.

Cryotherapy is a minimally invasive medical procedure used to treat various conditions by targeting and removing damaged or diseased tissue. Unlike traditional open surgery, cryotherapy is a less invasive option with a generally quick recovery period and minimal discomfort. Your healthcare provider may recommend cryotherapy for the following conditions:

  • Bone cancer.
  • Cervical cancer, liver cancer, or prostate cancer.
  • Precancerous cell abnormalities in the cervix (lower part of the uterus).
  • Precancerous skin conditions and early-stage skin cancers, such as squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
  • Retinoblastoma (a type of childhood eye cancer affecting the retina).
  • Skin issues like warts, skin tags, or pigmented lesions.


Cryotherapy is generally considered a low-risk procedure, but it is not without potential complications, which include post-cryotherapy bleeding, cramping, or discomfort in cases involving the cervix, as well as the rare occurrence of bone fractures, nerve damage leading to sensory loss, and the possibility of swelling, scarring, or skin infections as side effects.

Before the procedure

Preparing for cryotherapy on the skin typically doesn’t require any special steps for most individuals. Your healthcare provider will provide specific instructions to prepare for internal cryotherapy. These instructions may involve:

  • Medication adjustments: You might need to discontinue certain medications, like aspirin or blood thinners, a few days before undergoing internal cryosurgery.
  • Dietary restrictions: You may be advised to limit your food and drink intake before the procedure.
  • Transportation arrangements: It’s important to plan for someone to drive you home after the procedure, as you may not be in a condition to drive yourself.

Remember that these preparations can vary depending on your specific situation, so it’s crucial to follow the guidance provided by your healthcare provider.

During the procedure

In the case of external cryotherapy, healthcare providers typically administer cold treatment using a spraying device or cotton swab, often employing liquid nitrogen. On the other hand, for internal cryotherapy, a cryoprobe is inserted through a small incision in the skin, and ultrasound imaging may be utilized to guide its placement within the targeted tissue. Depending on the location of abnormal cells, patients may receive either local anesthesia to numb a specific area or general anesthesia to induce sleep, a standard practice in surgical procedures.

After the procedure

Following external cryotherapy for a skin condition, the treated area typically undergoes a process where it turns red, may develop blisters, and experiences mild pain, which usually subsides within approximately three days. Subsequently, a scab forms, and this typically heals within a period of one to three weeks. In the case of internal cryotherapy, individuals may experience mild pain or soreness in the treated area for up to three days, while women undergoing cervix cryotherapy may encounter a watery discharge lasting from a few days to a few weeks.


Cryotherapy is an effective treatment option offered by healthcare providers for various skin conditions, and in most cases, it requires no special post-treatment care.

For individuals undergoing internal cryotherapy, it may be necessary to restrict their activity levels for a brief period following the procedure. Your healthcare provider will provide guidance on when you can resume your regular activities. Multiple cryotherapy sessions may be necessary to completely eliminate abnormal tissue.

If you experience any signs of infection after cryotherapy, it’s crucial to contact your healthcare provider promptly. These signs may manifest as:

  • Redness.
  • Formation of pus.
  • Fever.

Additionally, if you still observe a skin issue persisting after the healing process following cryotherapy, it is advisable to consult your healthcare provider for further evaluation and guidance.