Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cryosurgery is the application of extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue.
Cryosurgery is used to treat a number of diseases and disorders, especially those of the skin. Warts, moles, skin tags, solar keratoses , and small skin cancers are all prime candidates for cryosurgical treatment. Internal disorders are also treated with cryosurgery, including liver cancer, prostate cancer, and cervical disorders. Although found to be effective, this method of treatment is only appropriate for use against localized diseases with no metastization.
Cryosurgery works by taking advantage of the destructive force of freezing temperatures on cells. At low temperatures, ice crystals form inside the cells, which can tear them apart. More damage occurs when blood vessels supplying the diseased tissue freeze.
The most common method uses liquid nitrogen as the cooling solution. The super-cooled liquid may be sprayed on the diseased tissue, circulated through a tube called a "cryoprobe," or simply dabbed on with a cotton swab. Less frequently, doctors use carbon dioxide liquid mixed with acetone to form a slushy solution which is applied directly to the skin.
Cryosurgery is a minimally invasive type of procedure, and is thus often preferred to more traditional kinds of surgery for several reasons:
- Minimal pain
- Minimal scarring
- Lower cost than traditional surgery
However, as with any medical treatment, there are risks involved, primarily that of damage to nearby healthy tissue. Damage to nerve tissue is of particular concern.
Patients undergoing cryotherapy can expect pain and redness at the site, which can be lessened by oral administration of aspirin, as well as application of topical steroid cream. Blisters may form, but these usually scab over and peel away.
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