Spray Cryotherapy

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The University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center in Madison, Wisconsin, offers spray cryotherapy as a treatment for lung cancer.


University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics, recently became the first surgeon in Wisconsin to begin using a liquid nitrogen spray to remove tumors and obstructions from patients' airways.


Interventional radiologists have been using cryoablation, a technique in which liquid nitrogen is used to freeze and kill tumors in solid organs such as the liver and pancreas, for several years.


Using a cold gas, the tumor is 'spray-painted' so that it is immediately frozen. After allowing the tumor to thaw, the cycle is repeated. By the end of the fourth freeze-thaw cycle, the tumor shrivels up and falls away.


Airway and esophageal obstructions, especially the larger ones that threaten a patient's ability to breathe or eat, can be especially tricky for surgeons to treat when they can't be removed surgically.


Cryotherapy opens up the possibility of several treatment paths:

  • With some patients, it represents an alternative or supplement to radiation therapy, when radiation might damage nearby organs or tissue or has failed to shrink the blockage.
  • In other patients, it can remove blockages and open up the obstruction to allow radiation to be used to completely attack cancerous cells in the surrounding area.

Cryotherapy is considered safer than photodynamic therapy (PDT), another common treatment that uses a photosensitizer to kill targeted cancer cells in certain types of cancer. After PDT, patients can't go into sunlight for about six weeks; cryotherapy is less expensive and the patient usually can go home the same day without any lifestyle or sunlight restrictions.


UW Hospital is currently the only one in Wisconsin using spray cryotherapy to treat airway obstructions.