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Patient Information

Cryotherapy

https://kingstonhospital.nhs.uk/information/cryotherapy

This offers information on cryotherapy: what it is and how it is used to remove damaged skin cells.

What is cryotherapy?

Cryotherapy means treatment using a low temperature. This method is used to remove areas of damaged or abnormal skin by freezing them with liquid nitrogen. Liquid nitrogen is extremely cold and is stored and transported in special flasks.

What happens to my skin after cryotherapy?

Treatment with cryotherapy causes discomfort which can be relieved by taking paracetamol.

  • After treatment, your skin may develop a large blister which might look red or black. This is normal and it is nothing to worry about.
  • If the blister gets bigger it can be pricked with a sterile needle, so that the fluid can be pressed out and a plaster applied. The top of the blister should be left in place to act as a natural protective dressing.
  • The treated area can be washed as normal and left exposed or dressed, whichever you prefer.
  • In rare cases, the blister may become infected. If this happens your doctor will need to prescribe a course of antibiotics for you.  
  • You can reduce the chance of infection by applying antiseptic cream (such as Savlon or Germoline) to the treated area every day.
  • The treatment site usually takes 1 to 3 weeks to heal, but it can take longer, especially on the lower leg area.

What are the side effects of cryotherapy?

You may experience one or more of the following:

  • Scarring.  In rare cases a scar will form. This is most likely to happen if cryotherapy is used to treat deeper lesions (areas of skin damage). Sometimes a slightly raised scar will form (often called hypertrophic or keloid scarring).
  • Pigmentation changes.  Your skin may lighten or darken in colour at and around the treatment site. 
  • Numbness and loss of feeling may occur if a superficial nerve (close to the skin surface) is frozen.  Normal feeling usually returns within a few months.
  • Treatment may not be effective or your original condition may return.

Contact your GP practice nurse or Kingston Hospital Dermatology and Plastics Team (see Contacts section) if you are worried about side effects.

More information

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British Association of Dermatologists information on cryotherapy
www.bad.org.uk/pils/cryotherapy/
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DermNet information on cryotherapy
https://dermnetnz.org/topics/cryotherapy


Contacts

Plastics and Dermatology Department, 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday 020 8934 6473

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For information accessibility please visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust
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Accessibility

Please contact the Patient Experience Team on 020 893 3850 if you need this information in a different format.
For detailed information on accessibility at Kingston Hospital visit Kingston Hospital AccessAble (https://www.accessable.co.uk/kingston-hospital-nhs-foundation-trust).


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