Cryosurgery uses liquid nitrogen, a very low-temperature liquid, to destroy noncancerous (benign) and some cancerous (malignant) skin lesions. It is a common treatment option because of its low cost, ease of use, and effectiveness. When used by properly trained and experienced physicians, cryosurgery can remove a lesion with good cosmetic results.
Preparation / Typical procedure
There is no preparation needed. Rarely, patients who are very sensitive to pain may apply numbing cream for 30-90 minutes before treatment.
One of the major advantages of this simple, low-risk procedure is that it can be used at any time during a visit to a doctor. For small lesions, liquid nitrogen can be applied using a cotton-tipped applicator, metal probe, or with a spray in fewer than 30 seconds. Larger lesions may require longer freezing cycles lasting 30-60 seconds. Because liquid nitrogen is extremely cold, the treated area turns white from frost. Most patients experience temporary pain during the treatment, with a minor throbbing sensation after the procedure.
Many benign skin growths can be safely treated with cryosurgery. Warts and pre-malignant lesions related to chronic sun exposure (known as actinic keratoses) are some of the most commonly treated lesions. Depending on physician and patient preference, certain types of superficial skin cancers (ie, superficial basal cell carcinoma and Bowen's disease) can also be treated with cryosurgery with excellent results.