Cryotherapy is a minimally invasive procedure that uses an extremely cold liquid or instrument to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue that requires elimination. It is also referred to as cryosurgery or cryoablation.
Benign skin lesions that are suitable for freezing include actinic keratosis, solar lentigo, seborrheic keratosis, skin tags, viral warts, molluscum contagiosum, and dermatofibroma (Andrews, 2004). It is widely used in primary care because of its safety, effectiveness, low cost, ease of use, good cosmetic results, and lack of need for anesthesia (Zimmerman and Crawford, 2012).
Cryosurgery is as effective as alternative therapies for most cases of molluscum contagiosum, dermatofibromas, keloids, and plantar or genital warts. It is a more effective cure for common warts than salicylic acid or observation (Zimmerman and Crawford, 2012).
Advantages of this treatment include a short preparation time, low risk of infection, and minimal wound care. The procedure requires no injectable anesthesia, and the patient does not have to return for suture removal. Potential side effects include blister formation, headache, hair loss, and hypopigmentation, but rarely scarring. Skin lesions often can be treated in a single session, although some require several treatments.
Contraindications to cryotherapy include undiagnosed skin lesions, lesion for which tissue pathology is required, lesion within a circulation compromised area and melanoma.
Andrews, M. D. (2004). Cryosurgery for common skin conditions. American family physician, 69(10).
Zimmerman, E. E., & Crawford, P. (2012). Cutaneous cryosurgery. American family physician, 86(12), 1118.