Cryoablation is a procedure that uses a cryoprobe to deliver liquid nitrogen or argon gas to freeze and destroy diseased tissue, advises RadiologyInfo.org. During the procedure, doctors use imaging, such as ultrasound, magnetic resonance or computed tomography, to determine the location of the tissue. Doctors can use cryoablation to treat tissue on the surface of the skin or just slightly underneath the skin. They can also create a surgical incision to allow the cryoprobe to penetrate deep within the body.
Cryoablation works because human tissue cannot withstand extreme cold, notes RadiologyInfo.org. The freezing process causes ice to form outside the cells, which leads to cellular dehydration and ice formation inside the cell, which destroys the cell itself. Cryoablation also causes clotting within the diseased tissue, which leads to a lack of blood, and cell bursting due to the freeze and thaw cycle. To make sure that all of these stages occur, cryoablation typically uses at least two freeze-and-thaw cycles to ensure adequate treatment. Each freeze cycle lasts approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
Doctors use cryoablation to treat skin tumors, skin tags, nodules, precancerous skin moles and freckles, explains RadiologyInfo.org. Cryoablation is also a treatment option for cervical, liver and prostate cancers, depending on feasibility of traditional surgery. Retinoblastoma is another type of cancer that responds to cryoablation. A patient may also receive cryoablation to treat a tumor in the bones, lungs, kidneys, spine or breast.