The Big Freeze: What Is Pet Cryosurgery?

What is Cryosurgery?

Have you heard of cryosurgery? This somewhat strange word, perhaps better termed cryotherapy – since no actual cutting takes place, means the application of extreme cold to destroy abnormal or diseased tissue. It has been used for over 200 years, and in humans is used to treat many different types of cancer, skin conditions and tumors, and hemorrhoids. In pets, there are many uses as well.

Why would cryosurgery be recommended?

Many conditions can be treated with pet cryosurgery. Cryosurgery might be considered as an alternative to conventional surgery when the diseased tissue is in a location that is difficult to operate on, such as the toes, the nose, the ears, the anus, the eyelids, or inside the mouth. Cryosurgery may also be used for infected or very irritating tumors or lesions. Lastly, it might be recommended in older patients or those with other medical conditions when general anesthesia is deemed to be high risk .

How is cryosurgery performed?

Cryosurgery uses freezing temperatures to destroy the cells of diseased tissue. Liquid nitrogen is most commonly used, and is circulated in a special tube called a cryoprobe. The cryoprobe is fitted with a variety of specialized tips which allow precise contact with the tumor. The cold tip freezes and destroys the cells of the tumor.

What are the other benefits of cryosurgery?

The cryoprobe gives veterinarians very good control in treating the exact location of the diseased tissue without cutting into surrounding areas. Because the freezing temperatures immediately numb the nerves in the tissue, very often general anesthesia is not needed (although a local may be indicated).An added bonus of the freezing temperatures is that bacteria and other germs are killed, making it a useful technique in infected tissues.

What happens next?

Once the freezing has occurred, the diseased tissue slowly dies and sloughs away over a period of weeks. This process is not painful for the animal, since the tissue nerves are numb.In many cases, and depending on the site and the condition, cryosurgery cures the disease. In some cases, more than one treatment may be needed for the therapy to be completely curative.

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