Cryotherapy for Retinoblastoma

In cryotherapy, the doctor uses a small metal probe that is cooled to very low temperatures, killing the retinoblastoma cells by freezing them. It is only effective for small tumors toward the front of the eye. It is not used routinely for children with several tumors.

The child will be in a deep sleep (under general anesthesia) during the treatment. After the child is asleep, the probe is placed on the outer surface of the eyeball next to the tumor, which is then frozen and thawed several times. Cryotherapy is usually given 2 or 3 times, with about a month between treatments.

Possible side effects

Cryotherapy can cause the eye and eyelid to swell for a few days. As with laser therapy, cryotherapy can damage the retina, which can lead to blind spots or temporarily cause the retina to detach from the back of the eyeball.

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Hurwitz RL, Shields CL, Shields JA, et al. Chapter 27: Retinoblastoma. In: Pizzo PA, Poplack DG, eds. Principles and Practice of Pediatric Oncology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins; 2016.

Kaufman PL, Kim J, Berry JL. Retinoblastoma: Treatment and outcome. UpToDate. Accessed www.uptodate.com/contents/retinoblastoma-treatment-and-outcome on September 25, 2018.

National Cancer Institute. Retinoblastoma Treatment (PDQ®). 2018. Accessed at www.cancer.gov/types/retinoblastoma/hp/retinoblastoma-treatment-pdq on September 25, 2018.

Rodriguez-Galindo C, Orbach DB, VanderVeen D. Retinoblastoma. Pediatr Clin North Am. 2015;62(1):201-223.

Last Medical Review: December 3, 2018 Last Revised: December 3, 2018

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