Also referred to as Cryotherapy, liquid nitrogen or freezing therapy. Liquid nitrogen is delivered using a precise spray directly onto the skin lesion. It can be used to treat both benign and cancerous lesions avoiding the need for surgery. The advantage of cryosurgery is it allows treat of a large number of lesions in one clinic visit and it is relatively inexpensive compared to invasive procedures.
Liquid nitrogen is applied (-196°C) from a vacuum flask with a spray nozzle. This spray cools and destroys superficial layers of skin. Sometimes, the liquid nitrogen may be applied using a cotton wool bud. The treatment only takes a few seconds, then the skin is allowed to warm up. Repeated treatments may be required.
Will it hurt?
Liquid nitrogen is very cold, so it will numb your skin. You may feel a burning sensation or a stinging pain for a short time. Dr Nelson will use local anaesthetic prior to delivering cryosurgery when a prolonged treatment time is recommended. During the warming up period the skin may tingle which may then be followed by a dull ache for 2-3 hours. Simple painkillers such as Paracetamol or Ibuprofen may be used.
What will happen next?
Depending on the site, size and lesion treated the area will be left with a white (depigmented) scar. In the initial 24 hours a large blister often forms. Pain is minimal after 48 hours. A crust on the treated lesion may simply drop off without any noticeable change after a week or two. Following prolonged freeze cycles the healing can take up to six weeks.
What are the side-effects?
Cryotherapy can be painful. You may develop redness, swelling or a blister. As with any other surgical procedure there is a small risk of a wound infection. Once the wound has healed, you may be left with an area of depigmented (white) skin. The treated skin may initially be darker (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation) or lighter than the surrounding skin. This change of pigment may be permanent.
What kind of wound care will I need?
Immediately after treatment Dr Nelson may recommend a sterile dressing for two days. You can wash and bathe your skin as usual, but should avoid scrubbing the treated area. If a blister forms, this should be left intact if possible. If the blister is tense and painful the fluid can be released with a sterile needle and a dry dressing applied. Any crust that forms should be allowed to drop off by itself. If there is any discharge from the wound, or you experience worsening pain after 48 hours, you may have developed a wound infection and should seek medical advice/contact your surgeon/call Dr Nelson’s secretary.
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