Cryotherapy is a treatment in which health care providers use extreme cold to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue. To create this extreme cold, suppliers use materials such as liquid nitrogen or argon gas.
Many skin conditions and cancers can be treated with cryotherapy, including prostate and liver cancers. This treatment can treat both external (skin) and internal (internal body) tissue. This treatment is also called cryoablation.
Cryotherapy is a non-invasive therapy/treatment that removes damaged or diseased tissue from various medical conditions. It is usually done without open surgery. Most people recover quickly and with mild pain.
How does cryotherapy work?
During cryotherapy, a medical professional applies extreme cold to damaged tissue. These cells cannot survive this extreme cold and die after treatment.
Your health care provider can use a few different things to create the extreme cold used in cryotherapy. These may include:
- Liquid nitrogen.
- Liquid nitrous oxide.
- Argon gas.
Different Methods used for cryotherapy
Cryotherapy involves freezing tissue using a variety of methods. How your health care provider applies the cold depends on where the damaged tissue is.
External: If the rash is on your skin, your therapist will use a spray or cotton swab to apply heat.
Internal: To treat conditions inside the body, such as cancerous cells or tumours, your provider will use an instrument called a cryoprobe. This instrument is inserted through a small incision (cut) in your skin.
External cryotherapy causes the skin to freeze to form scars and cuts so that new, healthy skin can grow. When abnormal cells stop and die during internal cryotherapy, the immune system helps eliminate the tissue from the body.
How to prepare for cryotherapy?
For skin treatments, most people don’t need to do anything special to prepare. Before undergoing internal cryotherapy, you will receive instructions from your healthcare provider to help you prepare.
Before undergoing internal cryotherapy, you may have to stop taking certain medications, such as aspirin or blood thinners. Other special instructions may include drinking less or eating less before the procedure. You should also consider having someone drive you home after the procedure.
What to expect during and after cryotherapy?
During cryotherapy, your healthcare provider will apply the cold with a spraying device or cotton swab for external cryotherapy. This type of treatment usually involves the use of liquid nitrogen.
An incision is made in your skin to insert the cryoprobe for internal cryotherapy. Your healthcare provider may use ultrasound imaging to ensure that the cryoprobe reaches the desired tissue.
Depending on the location of the abnormal cells, you may be given local anaesthesia or general anaesthesia. Local anaesthesia works to numb a specific area, while general anaesthesia is used during surgery to put you to sleep.
If you treat an external skin condition with cryotherapy, the affected area will likely turn red and possibly blister. Any mild pain should be relieved within three days. The treated area will form a scab, which usually heals within one to three weeks.
After internal cryotherapy, you may experience mild pain or soreness in the affected area for up to three days. Women who undergo cryotherapy on the cervix may experience a watery discharge for a few days to a few weeks.
Risks associated with cryotherapy
Cryotherapy is a minimally invasive treatment. Compared to traditional surgery, it usually causes less pain and bleeding and a lower risk of damaging healthy tissues near the abnormal cells.
Complications can occur during cryotherapy, but the risks are small. These complications can include:
- Cramps or pain around the cervix after cryotherapy.
- Bone fractures
- Damage to the nerves resulting in loss of sensation.
- scarring and skin infections.
Benefits of cryotherapy
After your cryotherapy procedure, your body works overtime trying to regulate your temperature. All the increased metabolic activity causes you to burn more calories over the next 24 hours. Many studies show that people can burn between 400 and 800 calories after a cryotherapy session. It’s a great way to burn calories without affecting the body. This benefit of cryotherapy is especially useful for those with limited mobility due to chronic pain or recovery from injury.
Extremely cold temperatures cause hormones to be released during whole-body cryotherapy. Some of these hormones promote relaxation. It helps calm you down so you can sleep well. This is especially useful on days off when you don’t work to help burn more energy. This benefit enhances all other benefits of cryotherapy.
Whole-body cryotherapy uses extremely cold temperatures that can trigger hormonal responses. These hormones include noradrenaline, adrenaline, and endorphins. Many studies show that there is a positive effect on anxiety and depression when the level of these hormones increases in the process. This benefit of cryotherapy surprised many regular users but is now cited as one of the main reasons for the continued use of cryotherapy.
Cryotherapy temporarily narrows your blood vessels and reduces blood flow, which in turn reduces inflammation in the painful area. It slows down your nerve impulses, so your brain receives fewer pain signals.
Cryotherapy reduces inflammation and stimulates blood circulation. This speeds up your recovery time. It is a passive type of recovery that allows you to rest your body while you recover faster.
Recovery after cryotherapy
What is the prognosis for people receiving cryotherapy?
Healthcare professionals successfully treat many problems with cryotherapy. Most skin diseases treated with cryotherapy do not require special care after treatment.
It is recommended that people who have internal cryotherapy limit their activity for a few days following the procedure. Your provider will notify you when you can return to your normal routine. More than one cryotherapy treatment may be needed to remove all abnormal tissue.
WHEN TO CALL THE DOCTOR
Signs of infection after cryotherapy include pus, redness of the skin and unusual fever. Contact your doctor if you notice any of these signs. You should also consult with your provider if you still notice a skin problem after recovering from cryotherapy.