Patient Handouts : Wound Care for Liquid Nitrogen

Wound Care for Liquid Nitrogen (-321°F or -196°C)

Treating an area of skin with liquid nitrogen freezes the skin, which kills the tissue in the top layer of skin. The skin then regenerates: if the frozen area is left undisturbed, a superficial treatment will not scar. Here is what to expect from a treatment with liquid nitrogen, and how to care for the site.

What to expect

  • Discomfort at the site. If this was a light freeze on an area of skin other than the palm or sole, there will be some stinging for 10 or 15 minutes, and possibly some itching. If the area frozen was on the palm or the sole, it may be quite painful, and that pain will often last one or two days.
  • Blistering. Sometimes a blister will form. This may be a clear blister or a blood blister.
  • Scabbing. After two or three days, sometimes as long as a week, the area will feel like a scab -- DO NOT PICK AT IT! (Picking at it could cause a scar!)
  • Swelling. Treatment of areas on the forehead, nose or eyelids can result in painless swelling of the eyelids, especially noted in the morning. This will subside in 2-7 days.
  • Discoloration. The area frozen may turn darker brown or even black.
  • Peeling. After 7-10 days the area will start to peel, or, if it forms a scab, dark parts of the scab will start to crumble off.
  • Redness. After peeling, the area is likely to be slightly pink; this will fade after several days or weeks, depending on your skin type.

Care of the site

  • DO NOT PICK AT THIS AREA. Picking can damage the skin and keep it from healing as well -- it may cause scarring or a longer healing time.
  • You may cover it with a bandaid if you like, but this is not necessary unless the blister breaks.
  • If it forms a large blister that gets in the way, you may pop the blister with a sterile needle or razor -- but if you do this, keep the area covered with antibiotic ointment and a bandaid.
  • Call our office if discomfort in the area gets more noticeable after 1 or 2 days. Very rarely a frozen area can get infected -- and if it does, it will be more painful, and would need further treatment.