Using extreme cold for practically painless and bloodless surgery sounds like a futuristic concept, but it is here today and even available from your veterinarian.
Icy cold handiwork may sound like a strange name for a new surgical modality being used by more physicians and veterinarians on all types of skin problems, including cancer. But, it actually is the literal translation of “cryosurgery”. Cryo comes from a Greek word meaning icy cold and surgery from the Greek word meaning handiwork! But today’s modern cryosurgery is more than handiwork; it is very sophisticated, efficient, fast and economical.
Classically, cryosurgery uses a rod or probe to touch the lesion and freeze it. This causes the propagation of an ice ball in living tissues, quickly killing them. There have also been sprays funneled onto the mass from a spray can and even a cotton tip application of the freezing liquid.
The most modern application is high pressure liquid nitrous oxide delivered from a new handheld device. Now, doctors can very precisely place high pressure gas at extremely low temperatures right on a wart, skin tag or even a cancerous growth, and kill it quickly. This is very accurate, sparing the surrounding tissues, and allows the doctor to use cryosurgery in very delicate areas.
After the tissue freezes, it is allowed to thaw and then it is frozen again. This “freeze-thaw-freeze” cycle is what causes destruction on the cells. At these extreme low temperatures, ice crystals form inside the cells, which destroys them. Even more damage is done to the lesions when the blood vessels supplying them are also frozen, robbing the mass of its blood supply.
Cryosurgery is a well-proved method and highly effective for a broad range of skin problems in people and in animals.
One nice thing about cryosurgery is that our animal patients don’t have to be anesthetized. In fact, as the tissue freezes along with the blood vessels, this mode of treatment causes its own tissue numbing, making it practically painless and bloodless.
Cryosurgery devices are also portable, making it wonderful for going from patient to patient in a clinic or perfect for our house call practice.
Today, with such precise placement of the cryogen gas, this modality can even be used on growths around the mouth, ears and eyes.
Costs are less expensive when compared to traditional surgery because anesthesia and normal sterile preparation is not necessary. The doctor’s time is also less, as the treatment is so fast and effective.
So, the next time you see a suspicious growth on your pets, please don’t wait. Ask your veterinarian and get an assessment, then perhaps they will use the icy cold handiwork called cryosurgery.
Dr. Jim Humphries is a house call veterinarian in Falcon. He also serves as a visiting professor at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University. He lives in Falcon with his wife, horses and Great Danes. http://www.MobilePetDocs.com