Cryosurgery for Skin Growths

In cryosurgery, liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and kill warts and skin tags.

What you should know about cryosurgery

Cryosurgery can be performed in the doctor’s office. The treatment area first is cleansed and dried. During the procedure, the doctor will apply frozen nitrogen using either a cotton swab or a spray device. The goal is to freeze the skin quickly and then allow it to slowly thaw to cause maximum destruction to targeted skin cells. In some cases, additional applications may be needed. Sometimes the doctor will insert a small needle containing a thermometer into the treatment area to ensure the treated area has been sufficiently cooled.

Why choose cryosurgery

Because cryosurgery targets only the wart or skin tag, little damage is suffered by surrounding tissue. Cryosurgery is a good choice for patients with medical conditions that may complicate more invasive surgical methods or have a history of bleeding problems. The procedure has few side effects, is minimally invasive and offers a quick recovery time.

Possible risks

As with any treatment, there are risks associated with cryosurgery, though they are minimized in the hands of a qualified ASDS dermatologist. These include:

  • Swelling
  • Scarring
  • Loss of sensation in treatment area of 12 to 18 months
  • Loss of pigmentation
  • Loss of hair in treatment area
  • Bleeding and blisters
  • Healing problems

How to prepare for the procedure

Before the procedure, an ASDS doctor will usually review the patient’s medical history and conduct a physical exam. This is the time for the doctor and patient to discuss expectations, potential risks and outcomes of the procedure. Be sure to tell your doctor:

  • About any prescribed and over-the-counter medicines you are taking, as well as any supplements.
  • About any allergies, especially allergies to anesthetics.

What to expect after the procedure

Redness, swelling and the formation of a blister can be expected at the treatment site. An over-the-counter pain reliever can be used to control pain. Patients will be directed to wash the site daily while fluid continues to ooze from the wound, usually for five to 14 days, until a dry crust forms. The crust will eventually fall off by itself. Healing time for head and neck procedures is two to six weeks; longer for other parts of the body.