Cryosurgery (or cryotherapy) refers to the application of extreme cold temperatures to treat a broad range of skin lesions and conditions. Liquid nitrogen (at – 196 degrees C) is used and may be sprayed onto, or applied directly to the lesion with a Q-tip or other instrument.
Liquid nitrogen may be used to treat many skin conditions including actinic keratosis (precancers), seborrheic keratosis, warts, molluscum, solar lentigines (age spots) and others. In many instances only one treatment is required. In other cases, such as warts, a series of treatments may be required.
Cryosurgery is a quick procedure that may take a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the type and number of lesions treated. Most patients find the procedure somewhat uncomfortable but very tolerable. The area will develop a crust that will peel away within one to three weeks. If a blister develops this may be drained with a sterile pin. Paracetamol is recommended for any discomfort.
Most patients experience some discomfort immediately during and after the procedure. This generally fades quickly. Blistering may occur in patients who are very sensitive or when lesions require more aggressive treatment. Treated areas may heal with a spot that is darker or lighter than the surrounding skin.