Procedure, Benefits, Side Effects, Cost & CPT Code of Cryotherapy

Submitted on March 27, 2012

Cryotherapy is a recently discovered medical treatment for cancer that utilizes extreme cold to destroy the malignant cancerous cells. The therapy is also often known as cryoablation or cryosurgery. During this treatment, the cancer cells are identified, and the doctor freezes them by using chemicals in order to destroy them. This is an extremely local treatment and is useful for those who have cancers in a very specific part of their body. Those who have an experience of metastasis do not qualify for this procedure. Once the cancer cells have been destroyed, the body’s natural defenses get rid of the dead tissues.

Which Cancers Can Be Treated?

Cryotherapy is a rather effective treatment method that can be used to treat a variety of cancers as well as precancerous conditions. The cancer treatment is most commonly used for treatment of basal cell cancer and cervix cancer. However, it is now also being used for some of the other cancers such as cancers in the lung, liver, kidney, and the prostate. It can also be used for penile cancer, Barett’s esophagus, and retinoblastoma.

Cryotherapy has been used to efficiently treat specific areas where cancers are present in the body. However, it is not known whether cryotherapy is efficient in keeping the cancer from recurring.


Cryotherapy is not always performed as a surgical procedure. However, often cryotherapy has to be performed inside the body. For this, the doctor inserts a small probe into the body and places it right next to the tumor. The cryoprobe is positioned properly against the tumor with the help of a CT scan or an ultrasound. This special probe is attached to a small supply of liquid nitrogen.

When the probe is exactly next to the tumors, it releases liquid nitrogen to freeze the cancerous cells.


Often, cancer cells will need to be frozen, thawed, and then frozen again several times before they can be destroyed completely. Depending upon the nature of the cancer cells, the cryotherapy procedure may take from several minutes to several hours. The exact nature and the location of the tumors are necessary to determine whether cryotherapy can be performed through the skin or through a scope.

Percutaneous Cryotherapy

This kind of treatment is administered through the skin using local or general anesthesia. For instance, in case of liver cancer, the cryoprobe is inserted into the abdomen using a local anesthesia. For prostate cancer, the cryoprobe is inserted into the perineum.

A laparoscope may also be used to position the cryoprobe properly against the tumor that requires treatment. The laparoscope may be inserted into the skin by making a small incision on the skin.

Cryotherapy through a scope

Doctors can also reach the tumors using a scope. This way, the doctors do not have to make a surgical incision in the body for cryotherapy. For instance, a bronchoscope can be used for performing cryotherapy for lung cancer. To position the cryoprobe, a bronchoscope can be perfect.

Other ways of performing Cryotherapy

For skin cancer, no incisions or probes are required. If you suffer from skin cancer, the doctor simply sprays the skin with liquid nitrogen. This freezes the tumor. Once the treatment is complete, the liquid nitrogen dissolves and the skin thaws. The cancer cells are destroyed and a scab forms at the area. The scab also eventually falls off with any cancer cells.

Cryotherapy procedure for cervical cancer

For performing cryotherapy on the cervix, the doctor puts a speculum into the vagina to open it up and see the cervix. The cryoprobe is then inserted into the vagina. The probe can then apply liquid nitrogen to abnormal areas of the cervix and freeze them. This entire process usually takes only about half an hour, depending on the kind of cancer cells and how the cancer has progressed. Sometimes, the cancer cells may have to be frozen and thawed several times before they are destroyed, and in such cases, the procedure may take a long time. The procedure may be performed using either general anesthesia or local anesthesia.

CPT Code and Cost

Cryotherapy codes are different for lesions and tumors. These codes are based on the number of lesions and their locations. Consult your medical care professional, hospital or your insurance provider to get the exact CPT codes for the procedure and the costs. Cryotherapy is considered a very cost effective method of cancer treatment. A whole body cryotherapy session could cost as less as $25.00 per session. Spot treatment prices start from $10 per body part with an extra $5 for every additional spot.


Cryotherapy is one of the most upcoming treatment and rejuvenation methods. It is an effective treatment of several maladies along with cancer. Negligible down time and faster muscle recovery are both the best benefits of cryotherapy. It can assist with cellulite reduction in the body as well. A whole body cryotherapy session can also promote healthier complexion and skin texture. It can also improve sleep patterns and invigorate the mind. Additionally, it can help in management of chronic pain.

Side Effects

Like any medical treatment, there are risks and possible side effects of cryotherapy treatment too. The type of cancer and its location in the body also determines the possible risks. Some of the most common of these side effects include the following.

  • Discomfort: You may experience pain as well as discomfort or soreness in the area where the procedure has been performed.
  • Bleeding: Bleeding is a real risk of this procedure and may occur even if it is performed perfectly.
  • Damage to normal tissue: Sometimes, the normal tissue near the cancerous tumors may also get damaged by cryotherapy.
  • Fluid buildup: Regular cryotherapy may lead to build up of fluid, which may not always be a healthy sign, especially if the procedure is being performed in the lungs.
  • Nerve damage: Though this is a rare possibility, there is a slight risk of developing nerve damage due to cryotherapy. Men who get this procedure performed for prostate cancer may get nerve damage and suffer from impotence.