What is Cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy, also known as cryosurgery, is a commonly used procedure for the treatment of a variety of
skin lesions ranging from
salivary 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 resolution.

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

  • 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