Cryosurgery (cryotherapy) is the application of extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue.[1] The term comes from the Greek words cryo (κρύο) ("icy cold") and surgery (cheirourgiki - χειρουργική) meaning "hand work" or "handiwork". Cryosurgery has been historically used to treat a number of diseases and disorders, especially a variety of benign and malignant skin conditions.[2]



Warts, moles, skin tags, solar keratoses, Morton's neuroma and small skin cancers are candidates for cryosurgical treatment. Several internal disorders are also treated with cryosurgery, including liver cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer, oral cancers, cervical disorders and, more commonly in the past, hemorrhoids. Soft tissue conditions such as plantar fasciitis and fibroma can be treated with cryosurgery. Generally, all tumors that can be reached by the cryoprobes used during an operation are treatable. Although found to be effective, this method of treatment is only appropriate for use against localized disease, and solid tumors larger than 1 cm. Tiny, diffuse metastases that often coincide with cancers are usually not affected by cryotherapy.

Cryosurgery works by taking advantage of the destructive force of freezing temperatures on cells. At low temperatures, ice crystals form inside the cells, which can tear them apart. More damage occurs when blood vessels supplying the diseased tissue freeze.


Liquid nitrogen

Cryogun used to spray liquid nitrogen

A common method of freezing lesions is using liquid nitrogen as the cooling solution. The super-cooled liquid may be sprayed on the diseased tissue, circulated through a tube called a cryoprobe, or simply dabbed on with a cotton or foam swab.

Carbon dioxide

Less frequently, doctors use carbon dioxide "snow" formed into a cylinder or mixed with acetone to form a slush that is applied directly to the treated tissue.


Recent advances in technology have allowed for the use of argon gas to drive ice formation using a principle known as the Joule-Thomson effect. This gives physicians excellent control of the ice, and minimizing complications using ultra-thin 17 gauge cryoneedles.

Dimethyl ether - propane

A mixture of dimethyl ether and propane is used in some preparations such as Dr. Scholl's Freeze Away. The mixture is stored in an aerosol spray type container at room temperature and drops to −41 °C (−42 °F) when dispensed. The mixture is often dispensed into a straw with a cotton-tipped swab.


Cryosurgery is a minimally invasive procedure, and is often preferred to more traditional kinds of surgery because of its minimal pain, scarring, and cost; however, as with any medical treatment, there are risks involved, primarily that of damage to nearby healthy tissue. Damage to nerve tissue is of particular concern.

Patients undergoing cryosurgery usually experience minor-to-moderate localized pain and redness, which can be alleviated by oral administration of analgesics such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen (paracetamol). Blisters may form, but these usually scab over and peel away within several days.

See also


External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • cryosurgery — [krī′ō sʉr΄jər ē] n. [ CRYO + SURGERY] surgery involving the selective destruction of tissues by freezing them, as with liquid nitrogen: also cryogenic surgery cryosurgical adj …   English World dictionary

  • Cryosurgery — Treatment performed with an instrument that freezes and destroys abnormal tissue. * * * An operation using freezing temperature (achieved by liquid nitrogen or carbon dioxide) as an independent agent or in an instrument to destroy tissue. * * *… …   Medical dictionary

  • cryosurgery — n. the use of extreme cold in a localized part of the body to freeze and destroy unwanted tissues. Cryosurgery is usually undertaken with an instrument called a cryoprobe, which has a fine tip cooled by allowing carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide… …   The new mediacal dictionary

  • cryosurgery — cryosurgical, adj. /kruy oh serr jeuh ree/, n. the use of extreme cold to destroy tissue for therapeutic purposes. [1960 65; CRYO + SURGERY] * * *       therapeutic technique in which localized freezing is used to remove or destroy diseased… …   Universalium

  • cryosurgery — noun Date: 1962 surgery in which usually diseased or abnormal tissue (as of a tumor or wart) is destroyed or removed by freezing (as by liquid nitrogen) • cryosurgeon noun • cryosurgical adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • cryosurgery — noun The use of a probe containing liquid nitrogen to freeze and thus destroy tissue. See Also: cryosurgeon, cryosurgical …   Wiktionary

  • cryosurgery — n. use of very low temperatures to destroy tissue …   English contemporary dictionary

  • cryosurgery — noun surgery using the local application of intense cold to destroy unwanted tissue …   English new terms dictionary

  • cryosurgery — cryo·surgery …   English syllables

  • cryosurgery — cry•o•sur•ger•y [[t]ˌkraɪ oʊˈsɜr dʒə ri[/t]] n. srg the use of extreme cold to destroy tissue for therapeutic purposes • Etymology: 1960–65 cry o•sur′gi•cal, adj …   From formal English to slang

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