What is a Prostate Cryoablation?

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  • Written By: N. Madison
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 21 October 2019
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A prostate cryoablation is a surgical procedure used to treat prostate cancer. It is less invasive than other prostate cancer surgeries. Instead of removing the cancer patient’s prostate, the procedure involves freezing it to kill the cancer cells. Prostate cryoablation is performed without incisions and overnight hospital stays. Patients typically recover from it faster than other prostate cancer surgeries.

Typically, prostate cryoablation can be accomplished in about two hours. The patient is usually given general anesthesia to keep him asleep while a surgeon threads surgical probes into the prostate gland. The surgeon then sends argon gas through the probes, creating a ball of ice that works to destroy the cancer. The surgeon usually uses ultrasound technology to see what he’s doing during the procedure.

Sometimes prostate cryoablation is offered as a treatment alternative for patients who have just been diagnosed with prostate cancer for the first time. The surgeon may freeze the entire prostate gland in such a case. After the procedure, the patient’s surgeon usually evaluates his prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels on a regular basis to detect cancer if it returns. PSA is a protein that is often elevated in men with prostate cancer.


Some patients may not need to have the whole prostate gland treated. In such a case, prostate cryoablation is used to treat the part of the prostate that has cancer cells. A doctor may perform a biopsy some time after surgery to make sure additional cancers haven’t formed.

A patient may have prostate cryoablation after radiation treatment or other procedures if his PSA levels begin to rise. This is meant to destroy any cancerous cells still in the prostate. Often, this procedure is referred to as salvage cryoablation.

Prostate cryoablation is considered both safe and effective for treating prostate cancer. As it’s not open surgery, patients don’t have the risks common with traditional surgery, such as excessive bleeding. There are some risks, however. For example, it is possible that the extremely low temperatures used in this procedure will destroy tissues outside of the prostate.

Patients who’ve had cryoablation can generally expect to resume their normal schedules and activities within a week of treatment. A patient will usually have a thin tube called a catheter in place to drain urine during that time. If the patient does not start urinating on his own within a week, the catheter may be left in place for a bit longer. Some men experience urinary incontinence after this procedure, but the most common side effect is impotence.



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