Procedure, Side Effects & Recovery of Retinal Cryotherapy

Submitted by Nic on February 4, 2013

Retinal cryotherapy is a special procedure that uses extremely low temperatures to destroy retinal tumors or scarred retinal tissue. If there is scarring or tumors in the retina, retinal cryotherapy is considered to be one of the safest and best treatment methods.

Procedure For Retinal Cryotherapy

The procedure for retinal cryotherapy is usually very simple. It is administered under local anesthesia because of the nature of the treatment. A metallic probe is placed right against the eye. The metal probe is controlled by a foot pedal. When the doctor or technician presses on the foot pedal, the tip of the cryotherapy probe becomes immensely cold due to the rapid expansion of nitrous oxide, which is a very cold gas. The ice and water crystals from the probe enter into the eye and then thaw rapidly. This leads to the destruction of retinal tissues. Immediately after, the wound begins to heal and forms a scar tissue. In case the patient has suffered from retinal detachment, the treatment requires irritating the tissues around the tears. This will stimulate formation of scar tissue and eventually seal the edges of the tear. In this kind of treatment, multiple freezes are used, and the retina is once again brought into contact with the optic tissues, thus sealing the retina.

Side Effects

Here are some of the possible side effects of retinal cryotherapy.

  • Halos and glares: You may experience slight vision problems, such as starbursts from looking directly at lights.
  • Dry eyes: You may experience increased dryness in your eyes once you have retinal cryotherapy performed.
  • Fluctuation in vision: It is possible that you may experience blurred vision, which treats itself after sometime. The vision clarity may keep fluctuating every now and then.
  • Redness: After the treatment, you may experience some redness in your eyes for a short period of time. However, the redness usually goes away in time.
  • Scarring of cornea: Though a rare side effect, retinal cryotherapy may cause infection in the eyes, eventually leading to pain and scarring in the cornea. This is a very serious risk.


Healing of the retinal wounds usually take about 14 to 15 days. During this time, the patient is monitored regularly and is kept on pain medications. Applying cold compresses around the eye can help you get rid of some of the pain and discomfort. Patients may be kept under observation at the hospital, but are usually discharged within a week.


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