BACKGROUND: The efficacy of the use of the interventional bronchoscope for palliation of patients with central airway obstruction has been established. In the palliative setting to alleviate central airway obstruction, the use of laser resection, electrocautery, argon plasma coagulation, photodynamic therapy and cryotherapy can provide relief of an airway obstruction. Cryotherapy is the therapeutic application of extreme cold for the local destruction of living tissue. Recently, this technique has been used for endoscopic management of central airway obstructions in Korea. We report the role and complications of the use of cryotherapy for airway obstructions in patients with advanced lung cancer. METHODS: We used a flexible cryoprobe for cryotherapy using nitrous oxide as a cryogen. The cryoprobe was applied through the working channel of a flexible fiberoptic bronchoscope. The temperature of the tip was approximately -89degrees C, and the icing time was 5~20 seconds. RESULTS: Four patients with a central airway obstruction from advanced lung cancer were treated with cryotherapy. Three of the four patients were treated successfully and the airway obstruction was improved after the cryotherapy procedure. Dyspnea, hypoxia and atelectais were improved in three cases. Two patients experienced complications-one patient experienced pneumomediastinum and the other patient experienced massive hemoptysis during the cryotherapy procedure. However, these complications resolved and did not influence mortality. CONCLUSION: This technique is effective and relatively safe for palliation of inoperable advanced lung cancer with a central airway obstruction.