What You Should Know about the Cryoablation Procedure
Cryoablation, which also goes by the names of cryosurgery, cryotherapy, or targeted cryoablation therapy, is a minimally invasive treatment. The treatment uses extreme cold to freeze and destroy diseased tissue, including some cancer cells. While some of the terms can be used interchangeably, the term cryosurgery is reserved for treatment done by a cryoablation surgeon performed using an open surgical approach under general anesthesia.
During the cryoablation procedure, liquid nitrogen flows into a needle-like applicator called a cryoprobe. The cryoprobe creates an intense cold that is placed in contact with any diseased tissue. A cryoablation surgeon uses different image guidance techniques, such as computed tomography (CT), magnetic resonance (MR), or an ultrasound, to guide the cryoprobe or cryoprobes to the treatment sites that are in the body.
Cryoablation has been used to treat cases of skin and eye lesions, including skin tumors, skin tags, and unsightly freckles. However, it is also used to treat tumors in other parts of the body, including the breast. It has been known to treat benign breast masses called fibroadenomas.
During the cryoablation procedure, the liquid nitrogen generates extremely cold temperatures to destroy diseased tissue. The physician uses image guidance through the skin of the diseased tissue in order to deliver the liquid nitrogen. The tissue, whether its healthy or diseased, can’t withstand the cold temperatures that are present and they die from ice formation in the cell, ice formation in the fluid outside the cell, bursting from swelling caused by ice expansion in the cell, or the loss of blood supply. The tumors may be repeatedly frozen and thawed and there could be two or more freeze-thaw cycles that are used. Once cells are destroyed, the immune system and the body’s white blood cells work to clear out the dead tissue. The entire procedure is generally completed within one hour.