How is cryotherapy performed?
Cryotherapy is a treatment that uses a chemical called liquid nitrogen to destroy a lesion or cancer. The liquid nitrogen is usually sprayed directly on the abnormal area until the area develops a small rim around it, which subsequently turns white (thawing). The procedure usually takes between a few seconds to minutes. Cryotherapy is usually performed for below conditions:
- Cryotherapy can be used to kill off nerves that might be causing pain. A probe is inserted into the tissue next to the affected nerve. The temperature of the probe drops to effectively freeze the nerve.
- It is also used to treat abnormal cells in diseases like skin cancer; the doctor usually sprays or swabs liquid nitrogen at the affected area and freezes it. The nitrogen dissolves and freezes after the procedure. A dry crust may form over the wound, which may fall along with the dead cancer cells over the next few days or after a month.
- For cancers inside the body, a small probe is inserted (cryoprobe) to supply the liquid nitrogen. This can be done through the skin (percutaneously) or through a scope, depending on the position of cancer. This procedure may require general or local anesthesia. For kidney cancer, a thin, flexible tube called a laparoscope with a camera at its tip may be used to position the cryoprobe. Bronchoscopy may be needed for lung cancer and endoscopy for cancers in the food pipe to reach the tumors. Some cancers need to be frozen and thawed several times.
- Cryotherapy procedure is also used to slow down the effect of severe diseases by reducing the rate of cell growth and reproduction.
- Cryolipolysis is the freezing of fat cells to break them down so that they can be reabsorbed by the body. It’s a noninvasive way to remove fat cells and not damage other tissues in the body. In this procedure, the cold itself acts as an anesthetic so the patient may be awake for the entire procedure.
What is the outlook of cryotherapy?
Though it is not approved by FDA, doctors around the globe use cryotherapy as it boasts high success rates in permanently removing skin growths; even for aggressive lesions like squamous cell and basal cell cancers, studies have shown a cure rate of up to 98%. For certain types of growths, such as some forms of warts, repeat treatments over several weeks are necessary to prevent the growth's return. Successful cryotherapy avoids the need for alternative treatments, like surgery; however, the outlook remains controversial as studies are still going on about the treatment and its side effects.