Cryotherapy at HHRMC 
Thursday, 01 September 2005 

The new ice machine at Hilton Head Regional Medical Center serves a higher purpose than chilling soda.  The ice in this system is designed to treat cancer.    


The computerized system is used to perform a minimally invasive procedure called cryotherapy.  Physicians conduct rapid cycles of freezing and thawing to eliminate specific types of prostate cancer and small kidney tumors. Hilton Head Regional Medical staff urologist, Dr. Stephen Scionti, has already treated more than 100 patients with cryotherapy and now conducts monthly training programs at Hilton Head Regional Medical Center that attract physicians from across the country. 

“Cryotherapy is used to treat some of the worst types of prostate cancer, including cancer that resists radiation treatment,” Scionti says.  “The procedure is used to treat low, medium and high risk patients as long as they are appropriate candidates and their cancer is confined to prostate area. Each patient is unique and so is his cancer, so the choice of treatment is determined by individual characteristics and patients actively participate in the decision-making process,” he said.

Other approaches include deferred treatment, radical prostatectomy (surgical removal of the prostate), chemotherapy or radiation. Cryotherapy kills cancer cells by freezing them with argon gas.  Unlike more radical cancer treatments, it is a minimally invasive procedure performed on an outpatient basis.  There is usually only minor discomfort during a short recovery period.  Scionti says that freezing diseased tissue is not a new concept but one that spurred scientific investigations for 200 years.  “No one questions it’s a powerful treatment,” he says, “the challenge was harnessing its power.” 

The system Scionti uses integrates computer-guided technology with real-time ultrasound and automatically controls the freezing process.  Argon gas, used as the freezing agent, is delivered through slender probes inserted into the skin to the cancer site. Scionti’s physician training program moves from classroom to outpatient surgery where participants learn as they observe an actual procedure. 

Steve Barr, VP, Business Development at the medical center said, “The community can be proud of a medical center that draws physicians nationwide to participate in programs like Dr. Scionti’s.  It’s just as important to Hilton Head Regional Medical Center that patients can be spared from traveling outside the area to receive new medical treatments like cryotherapy.  Many of us, especially older citizens, want to be treated close to home, by local specialists, with supporting family or friends at hand.”