Postoperative cryotherapy: risks versus benefits of continuous-flow cryotherapy units

Clin Podiatr Med Surg. 2003 Apr;20(2):307-22. doi: 10.1016/S0891-8422(03)00009-0.


Continuous-flow cryotherapy units have been proved to decrease pain, inflammation, swelling, blood loss, and narcotic usage in the postoperative setting. Complications related to cryotherapy are extremely rare (estimated at 0.00225%) but can be devastating. Complications include frostbite, chronic pain, and loss of digits. Caution should be exercised when prescribing continuous-flow cryotherapy units to patients with known risk factors for cold injury. All members involved with care of the patient, including the physician, nursing staff, patient, and patient's family and caregivers, should take an active roll in monitoring the foot for signs and symptoms of cold injury. Continuous-flow cold therapy should be discontinued when capillary refill time is greater than 5 seconds.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Ankle / surgery*
  • Cryotherapy / adverse effects
  • Cryotherapy / methods*
  • Female
  • Foot / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain, Postoperative / therapy
  • Podiatry / methods
  • Postoperative Care / methods*
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors