What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery, is a
commonly used procedure for the treatment of a
variety of skin lesions ranging from
mucocœles to hæmangiomata to rodent ulcers.

It is a safe and easy to use treatment.

How does it work?

Cryotherapy treatment is a carefully controlled cold burn,
using liquid nitrogen (liquid nitrogen is a cold, liquefied gas
with a temperature of - 196º C).

It is used to destroy abnormal skin cells that require
removal such as
keratoses, warts, pre-cancers and some
malignant growths such as
squamous cell and basal cell
skin cancers

The goal of
cryotherapy is to freeze and destroy a targeted
skin / mouth growth as quickly as possible, then allowing it
to thaw slowly causing maximum destruction of the
abnormal skin cells while leaving the surrounding skin free
from injury.  Once the affected cells die off, the treated
area heals over.

There may be some side-effects (see below) but these are
usually minor and short-lived.

Sometimes lesions need to be treated several times before

How is Cryotherapy carried out?

A local anæsthetic is used to numb the area before
freezing.  This is either done using a
local anæsthetic
cream or injection.  A metal probe cooled by liquid nitrogen
is then applied to the lesion for a period of time and then
allowed to thaw out.  This can be repeated several times.  
The treated area may be sore afterwards so you are
advised to take painkillers before the
local anæsthetic
wears off (approximately 1.5 – 2 hours later).
Photo of a Cryoprobe
What are the possible side effects of Cryotherapy?

As with any procedure, complications can occur.

Complications can be divided into
acute, short-term and long-term.

  • Side-effects you may experience straight away include headache, pain,
    excessive granulation tissue formation, infection and blister formation.

  • Side-effects you may experience after a few days include bleeding, infection,
    and excessive granulation tissue formation.  If these happen, get in touch with
    the dentist / oral surgeon.

  • Longer side effects that are not permanent include skin tags, increased
    pigmentation of the skin and change in sensation.

  • Permanent side-effects include thinning out of the skin, scarring and localised
    change of skin colour (it may become red or white).

Useful Websites:


British Association of Dermatologists

Useful Article:

J Oral Maxillofac Surg 2007.  Cutaneous Cryotherapy in Maxillofacial Surgery
Last Updated 26th December 2014