What Is Cryosurgery, When Is It Used To Treat Prostate Cancer, And What Are The Risks/Side Effects?

Dr. David Levy answers the question: 'What Is Cryosurgery, When Is It Used?'

March 16, 2009 -- Question: What is cryosurgery, when is it used to treat prostate cancer, and what are the risks/side effects?

Answer: Cryosurgery of the prostate involves the use of pressurized liquid argon to freeze tissues and kill the cancer while preserving sensitive structures around and inside the prostate, such as the urethra. Six to eight cryoprobes, like this one, are placed into the prostate with ultrasound guidance so that we can freeze the tissues. At the end of the procedure, the catheters are removed, and patients can go home later that day or the following morning without need for pain pills.

The risks of the surgery are very small -- percentage of patients could experience urinary incontinence generally less than 2.4 percent. And less than 0.5 percent of patients could have a rectal injury.