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Cervix cryosurgery

Cervix cryosurgery is a surgical treatment to freeze and destroy abnormal tissue in the cervix.

Description

Cryotherapy is an office procedure done while you are awake. The vaginal canal is held open so that the doctor can see the cervix. The doctor inserts a device called a cryoprobe into the vagina, and places it firmly on the surface of the cervix, covering the abnormal tissue.

Freezing cold compressed nitrogen gas flows through the instrument, making the metal cold enough to freeze and destroy the tissue.

An "ice ball" forms on the cervix, killing the abnormal cells. For the treatment to be most effective, the freezing is done for 3 minutes, the cervix is allowed to thaw for 5 minutes, then the freezing is repeated for another 3 minutes.

Although you may have slight cramping and flushing in the face, cryosurgery is relatively painless.

Why the Procedure is Performed

This procedure may be done to:

Your doctor or nurse will help you to decide if cryosurgery is right for your condition.

Risks

Risks for any surgery are:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection

Other risks include:

  • Scarring (cervical stenosis), which may make it more difficult to get pregnant, or cause increased cramping with menstrual periods. However, cryosurgery causes very little scarring.

After the Procedure

Your health care provider should do a repeat Pap smear or biopsy at a follow-up visit to make sure that all abnormal tissue was destroyed. 

If you had cryosurgery for cervical dysplasia, you may need more frequent Pap smears for the first 2 years.

Outlook (Prognosis)

You can resume almost all of your normal activities right after surgery. You may need to avoid sexual intercourse, as well as using tampons for several weeks. For 2 - 3 weeks after the surgery, you will have a lot of watery discharge caused by the shedding (sloughing) of the dead cervical tissue.

You should never douche, whether you have this condition or not, because douching can cause severe infections in the uterus and tubes.

You might feel light-headed right after the procedure. If this happens, lie down flat on the examination table so that you do not faint. This feeling should go away in a few minutes.

Alternative Names

Cervix surgery; Cryosurgery - female

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 99: management of abnormal cervical cytology and histology. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;112:1419-1444.

Noller KL. Intraepithelial neoplasia of the lower genitaltract (cervix, vulva): Etiology, screening, diagnostic techniques, management.In: Katz VL, Lentz GM, Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2007:chap 28.

Martin-Hirsch PPL, Paraskevaidis E, Bryant A, Dickinson HO, Keep SL. Surgery for cervical intraepithelial neoplasia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD001318.

Update Date: 2/26/2012

Updated by: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director and Director of Didactic Curriculum, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington. Susan Storck, MD, FACOG, Chief, Eastside Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound, Bellevue, Washington; Clinical Teaching Faculty, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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