What is Cryoablation?

Cryoablation, occasionally called cryotherapy or cryosurgery, is a minimally invasive treatment (no incisions) that uses extremely cold temperatures to kill cancer tumors. It is a well-established technology for the treatment of many benign and malignant tumors and lesions, including kidney tumors. Very precise targeting and control of the extremely cold energy allow for efficient destruction of tumor cells while leaving healthy kidney tissue intact and functional.

What are the benefits and risks of Cryoablation?


  • Minimally Invasive
  • Shorter Procedure with Fewer Complications than open surgery
  • Preservation of Normal Kidney Tissue
  • Cryoablation is Repeatable if Needed
  • Local Tumor Control – results are comparable to the oncologic outcomes following partial nephrectomy.
  • Minimal Pain
  • Shorter Recovery Time


There are complications possible with any medical procedure and renal cryoablation is no exception. Complications that can occur during or after any procedure include problems related to general anesthesia and cardiovascular problems such as heart attack, stroke, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolus. These problems rarely occur, and the risk depends on the patient’s general fitness for surgery and previous medical problems. Overall, minimally invasive procedures have a lower complication rate than open surgeries.

What happens during the test?

To freeze the cancer, special ultra-thin probes called cryoablation needles are inserted into the site targeted for ablation. Argon gas is delivered under pressure into a small chamber inside the tip of the needle where it expands and cools, reaching a temperature well below -100º Celsius. This produces an ice ball of predictable size and shape around the needle. This ice ball engulfs the tumor, killing the cancerous cells as well as a small margin of surrounding tissue while sparing healthy kidney structures.

What should I expect during and following the exam?

How long does the procedure take?

Although each case is different, a percutaneous kidney cryoablation procedure usually lasts approximately two hours. After the procedure, you will be taken to a recovery area, where vital signs and urinary output will be closely monitored. Generally, patients experience very little discomfort after an image-guided percutaneous procedure, but each case is treated on an individual basis with the goal of keeping you as comfortable as possible.

What is the recovery time before returning to work?

Recovery time will depend on the extent of the disease treated, the approach used, the patient’s general health and the patient’s type of work. Most patients who do not have physically demanding jobs are able to return to work within 1-2 weeks.

How long will I have to stay at the hospital?

Cryoablation is an outpatient procedure. Typically, patients will go home the afternoon of their procedure. You will need a driver.

How much pain is associated with cryoablation?

Many patients experience very little pain associated with cryoablation, but some patients may have some discomfort. If appropriate, pain medicines may be given to improve patient comfort.



* The safety of our patients and those who accompany them to our office is of the utmost importance to the physicians and staff at Iowa Radiology. Please make arrangements for someone to care for your child/children during your exam. Thank you for your cooperation.

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