Cryoablation is a procedure that uses extremely cold gas to freeze and destroy abnormal cells or diseased tissue. It’s often used for skin disorders and cancer. Also called cryotherapy or cryosurgery, the procedure is usually safer and less invasive than surgery to cut out diseased tissue. People usually go home the same day.
Cryoablation is a procedure that uses extremely cold gas to freeze and destroy abnormal cells or diseased tissue. It’s sometimes called cryotherapy or cryosurgery.
Cryoablation can be performed in different ways:
Cryoablation may be used to treat several conditions:
Before cryoablation, your healthcare team will give you instructions on how to prepare. Depending on what type of cryoablation you’re having and other factors, they may ask you to:
Topical cryoablation is often done in a physician’s office during a regular appointment. You may not even have to change clothes, and you may not need any medication to prevent pain.
If you are having percutaneous or surgical cryoablation, your healthcare team may ask you to wear a hospital gown during the procedure. You may receive anesthesia. It can prevent pain in a specific area (numbing spray or needle), make you feel relaxed, or put you to sleep so that you feel nothing.
Just before cryoablation, your healthcare team will position you on an examination or surgical table. They might shave or sterilize the area. For surgical procedures, you may be connected to machines to monitor your heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen level and pulse.
During cryotherapy, a surgeon uses a needle-like, hollow applicator called a cryoprobe. The cryoprobe contains and circulates extremely cold gas, such as:
When working inside your body, your surgeon uses imaging technology to locate the correct area. The specialist touches the diseased or abnormal tissue with the cryoprobe for a few seconds or minutes. The intense cold at the tip of the cryoprobe freezes and destroys the diseased tissue. Your surgeon might need to touch the diseased tissue with the cryoprobe more than once.
When cryoablation is finished, your surgeon takes out the cryoprobe and closes the incision if needed. The entire process can take just a few minutes for small skin problems to a few hours for open cryosurgery.
People usually go home the same day as cryoablation. But a few may need to stay overnight, for example, if the procedure involved a large incision or a deep tumor. Someone should drive you home after cryoablation, except for simple skin procedures.
Over time, your body will naturally get rid of the dead cells.
Compared to open surgery to remove (or cut out) diseased tissue, cryoablation is generally:
Cryoablation is generally very safe. Yet there are some risks, particularly with percutaneous or surgical cryoablation, such as:
Recovery from cryoablation depends on the type of procedure you receive:
Your healthcare team will tell you when you can get back to work and other daily activities.
Your healthcare provider will give you instructions on when to follow up after cryoablation. For topical procedures, you may not need to return. For percutaneous or surgical cryoablation, you will likely see your healthcare provider a few weeks later.
If your healthcare provider recommends cryoablation, consider asking:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Cryoablation is a procedure that uses extremely cold gas to freeze and destroy abnormal cells or diseased tissue. Often used for skin disorders and cancer, the procedure is generally safer than surgery that cuts out diseased tissue. People usually go home the same day as cryoablation and only have short-term restrictions on activities.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 07/29/2021.
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