Cryosurgery, which is also known as cryotherapy, is the use of extreme cold or freeze produced by liquid nitrogen to destroy the abnormal tissue. Cryosurgery is used to treat or destroy problem tissues, such as those on the skin, typically used for tumors or precancerous lesions found on the skin. Cryosurgery is a highly effective treatment for a broad range of benign skin problems such as skin tags and warts.

Mechanism of action

Temperatures of -25°C to -50°C (-13°F to -58°F) can be achieved within 30 seconds if a sufficient amount of liquid nitrogen is applied by spray or probe. Generally, destruction of benign lesions requires temperatures of -20°C to -30°C (-4°F to -22°F). Irreversible damage in treated tissue occurs because of intracellular ice formation. 

Sometimes there may be risks associated with cryosurgery, which include:

  • Blisters
  • Pain
  • Damage to nearby healthy tissue or vessels
  • White skin at the site of the surgery


A numbing cream (local anesthetic) is mostly used on affected areas to prevent any pain or discomfort for 30-45 minutes before starting the procedure. The dermatologist will place liquid nitrogen on diseased skin using a spray. The dose of liquid nitrogen and the choice of delivery method depend on the size, tissue type, and depth of the lesion. The liquid nitrogen is fed to the area under treatment and applied to the targeted abnormal tissue. The treated area gets frozen, dies, and then gradually will be slowly absorbed by the body.

Post Procedure

Cryosurgery procedure in skin diseases is mostly an OPD procedure and the patient may go home immediately after the procedure. Care typically involves keeping the area free of contaminants. Sometimes oral antibiotics may be given to prevent infection and pain killer to improve discomfort post-procedure.