Cryoablation

Cryoablation is a nonsurgical, localized method for shrinking and killing cancerous tumor cells by freezing them, while sparing healthy tissue. It is used to treat tumors when surgical removal of the cancerous mass may be difficult or impossible. The following tumors may be treated with cryoblation:
  • Bone
  • Kidney
  • Lung
  • Liver

Cryoablation is performed by an interventional radiologist—a physician who uses image guidance, such as X-ray, ultrasound or CT scan, to treat cancer or other diseases in your body.

During cryoablation, a thin, wand-like needle, call a cryoprobe, is inserted through your skin, directly into the cancerous tumor. Nitrogen or argon gas is pumped into the cryoprobe in order to freeze the tissue. Living tissues, including cancer cells, cannot withstand extreme cold conditions. Cryoablation is performed on an outpatient basis.

Benefits and risks

Cryoablation offers key benefits to you, including:

  • Spares the majority of healthy tissue and can be repeated as often as necessary
  • Allows for tissue or other organs around the tumor to be moved or displaced prior to ablation to minimize the damage to these areas
  • Is less painful than open surgery to remove tumors and offers faster recovery
  • Can help alleviate pain and other debilitating symptoms caused by tumors
  • Uses image guidance, allowing the gas to target precise areas for ablation or freezing

There are risks following cryoablation. After the procedure, you may experience a small amount of pain or discomfort at or near the treatment area. Also, any procedure where the skin is penetrated carries a risk of infection. Depending on the area being treated, different risks exist, including:

  • Liver: Treatment can damage bile ducts or cause heavy bleeding.
  • Kidney: Treatment can damage the urine collecting system or cause heavy bleeding.
  • Lungs: Treatment may cause a collapsed lung (pneumothorax) or for fluid to accumulate around the lungs.
  • Diaphragm: Treatment of tumors in this area can cause fluid to collect around the lungs.
  • Abdomen: Treatment near the abdomen can cause a hole in the bowel.
  • Nerves: Treatment near nerves can cause motor weakness or numbness in the area supplied by those nerves.
These risks are rare. Discuss any concerns you have with your physician. Medication can be provided as needed to help prevent or relieve any pain from the procedure.

Related Resources

Patient Education: If you are having cryoablation, understand what to expect before, during and after the procedure, as well as proper follow-up care.