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Before this procedure can take place, patients must be medically assessed either by Professor Kelly or provide a GP referral for this procedure.

Cryotherapy is the local or general use of low temperatures in medical therapy. Cryotherapy is used to treat a variety of benign and malignant tissue damage, medically called lesions.

Cryotherapy has been shown to accelerate surgical recovery by reducing inflammation, pain and complications. It is also effective for reducing bruising and the formation of scar tissue. 

What conditions can be treated with cryotherapy?

A wide variety of superficial benign (non-cancerous) lesions can be treated with cryotherapy, but it is most commonly used to remove actinic keratoses (an area of sun-damaged skin found predominantly on sun-exposed parts of the body), viral warts, seborrhoeic keratoses, Bowen’s disease and other benign lesions. Occasionally, your dermatologist may suggest using cryotherapy to treat a small skin cancer called basal cell carcinoma. 

What does the procedure involve?

Cryotherapy is done during the course of a routine out-patient consultation with your dermatologist, or by your general practitioner or their nurse, without any special preparation. Whilst liquid nitrogen is usually applied to the skin by using a spray gun, a metal probe or a cotton bud can sometimes be used instead of the spray gun.

Having cryotherapy for skin cancerFor skin cancer, a doctor sprays liquid nitrogen on to the area of cancer. Or they put it directly on to the area with a cotton swab. The liquid freezes the area. After treatment the liquid nitrogen dissolves and the area thaws. A scab forms in the area. Over the next month or so the scab falls off along with any dead cancer cells.

Results of cryotherapy

After a standard freeze of a actinic keratosis, seborrhoeic keratosis or viral wart, the skin may appear entirely normal without any sign of the original skin lesion.

However, cryotherapy may result in a white mark (hypopigmentation) or a scar, particularly when freezing has been deep or prolonged, as is required for a cancerous lesion. A white mark may sometimes follow a light freeze. The white mark may be quite noticeable especially in those with darker complexions. Although the appearance often improves with time, the colour change can be permanent.

Skin lesions may fail to clear or may recur at a later date, necessitating further cryotherapy, surgery or other treatment.

A hard freeze to the skin overlying a superficial sensory nerve, such as treatment to a viral wart on the side of a finger, can cause numbness of the skin area that the nerve supplies. The feeling nearly always returns to normal within a few weeks or months.