Cryotherapy - skin; Cryosurgery - skin; Warts - freezing; Warts - cryotherapy; Actinic keratosis - cryotherapy; Solar keratosis - cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is a method of superfreezing tissue in order to destroy it. This article discusses cryotherapy of the skin.
Cryotherapy is done using a cotton swab that has been dipped into liquid nitrogen or a probe that has liquid nitrogen flowing through it.
The procedure is done in your health care provider's office. It usually takes less than a minute.
The freezing may cause some discomfort. Your provider may apply a numbing medicine to the area first.
Cryotherapy or cryosurgery may be used to:
In rare cases, cryotherapy is used to treat some skin cancers. But, skin that is destroyed during cryotherapy cannot be examined under a microscope. A skin biopsy is needed if your provider wants to check the lesion for signs of cancer.
Cryotherapy risks include:
Cryotherapy works well for many people. Some skin lesions, especially warts, may need to be treated more than once.
The treated area may look red after the procedure. A blister will often form within a few hours. It may appear clear or have a red or purple color.
You may have a little pain for up to 3 days.
Most of the time, no special care is needed during healing. The area should be washed gently once or twice a day and kept clean. A bandage or dressing should only be needed if the area rubs against clothes or may be easily injured.
A scab forms and will usually peel away within 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the area treated.
Call your provider if:
Dinulos JGH. Dermatologic surgical procedures. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 27.
Pasquali P. Cryosurgery. In: Bolognia JL, Schaffer JV, Cerroni L, eds. Dermatology. 4th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 138.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 8/14/2021
Reviewed By: Elika Hoss, MD, Senior Associate Consultant, Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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