Cryo-procedure or cryotherapy, or cryosurgery as it is sometimes called, is a medical procedure, in which chemicals are used to freeze and destroy diseased tissues so they can be removed. It is also used to prevent cervical cancer. The abnormal cells are frozen using liquid nitrogen or high pressure argon gas flowing through a cryoprobe that has been inserted into the cervix through the vagina. This is done so that normal cells can grow back. Cryotherapy can also be used to remove warts or any other growths on the body, as well as tumours within liver, bones, kidney, breast and lungs.

Why Cryotherapy?

This is a major way of preventing cervical cancer. This doesn’t mean that there are no other ways of preventing cervical cancer. Infact, there are various other ways of preventing cervical cancer, like laser treatments, cone biopsy or LEEP procedure.

Cryotherapy is also used to treat skin tumors, nodules, skin tags, prostate, liver or cervical cancer, pre-cancerous skin moles, freckles and retinoblastomas. Cryotherapy can be applied in three ways;

  • Topical – on the surface of the skin
  • Percutaneously – below the surface of the skin
  • Surgically

Effective level

Cryotherapy has proven to be quite effective with about 80 -95% success rate of curing abnormal cells. It ensures they do not come back.

Cryotherapy Procedure

Before cryotherapy procedure, some doctors might recommend ibuprofen to minimize minor discomfort. This is usually half an hour before the procedure. Other doctors might give a dose of antibiotics as a guard against infection. You should inform your doctor beforehand, if there is a chance you could be pregnant, because treatment might have to be delayed until after birth.

This procedure is most often performed by a specially trained radiologist, in the operating room. You will be positioned on the examining table. If it is a topical procedure, the liquid nitrogen will be applied on the area using a cotton swab or spray device. For deeper abnormal cells, thin ,needle size applicators or cryoprobes are used to apply the liquid nitrogen. A cryoprobe is a tool used during cryotherapy to apply the freezing liquid. Before this, an intravenous (IV) line is inserted into your vein to administer a sedative, moderately or a general anaesthetic.

The areas where the cryoprobes and other applicators are to be inserted are shaved, sterilised and covered with sterile drape. A small incision can be made. The physician inserts the probes or applicators through the skin, and using imaging guidance, navigates to the diseased area, where the liquid nitrogen or argon gas is released. This freezes all the water at the tip of the probe. For some cases like prostate cancer, application may need to be inserted at least six to eight times, to completely freeze the dead tissues.

At the conclusion of this procedure, the applicators are removed, and bleeding is controlled by pressure. The opening is covered with a bandage, as no stitches are needed, then the IV line is removed. The whole process takes about one to three hours.

What happens after cryotherapy?

During cryotherapy, most people feel only mild pain and pressure, others do not feel any form of discomfort. After cryotherapy, most people do not have any serious side effects. Some of the side effects are;

  • Heavy bleeding
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Fever
  • Fainting
  • Flare up of an existing pelvic infection
  • Freeze burns
  • Vaginal discharge
  • Watery discharge

After the procedure, your results will be determined by the radiologist, after which it is sent to your referring doctor, if any, before it will be sent to you. A follow up visit might be recommended after treatment to check for any effects or changes experienced.

Benefits Vs. Risks


1. Surgical cryotherapy of kidney/liver tumors head quickly and faster than actual surgery where the tumor is removed

2. It is less traumatic than open surgery, because only a small incision is made, and it is just for the passage of the probe and applicators. Due to this, damage to the healthy tissue is limited.

3. It is less expensive than open surgery, and even gives less side effects, provided the patient is well rested for days after the procedure.

4. There is minimal scar tissue and very little need for posting treatment


Like every other medical or surgical procedure, there could be minimal risks involved. They are;

  1. Bleeding
  2. Freezing of tissues like liver, lungs or kidney
  3. Damage to normal structures
  4. Fluid accumulation around lungs
  5. Collapse of lungs
  6. Damage of nerves
  7. Medication related complications
  8. Impotence, as in prostate cancer.