Cervical CryosurgeryEn Español (Spanish Version)
Cervical cryosurgery is the use of extreme cold to freeze areas of the cervix. The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus (womb) that is located in the back of the vagina.
Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to kill and remove abnormal cells of the cervix, particularly precancerous cells.
Cervix with Pre-cancerous Growth
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Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have this procedure, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
- Dizziness, fainting, hot flashes (during or immediately after the procedure)
- Cramping (during the procedure)
- Scarring or narrowing of the cervical opening
There are factors that may put you at risk for complications during this procedure:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
You may want to plan for someone to drive you home.
Normally, no medicines are needed for this procedure. However, pain medicines such as ibuprofen (eg, Motrin, Advil), naproxen (eg, Aleve), or acetaminophen (eg, Tylenol) are usually recommended and should be taken about an hour before your appointment. Ask your doctor if this is recommended for you.
Description of Procedure
You will lie on an examination table with your feet in foot rests, as you would for a pelvic exam. A speculum is inserted into the vagina to hold it open. The cryosurgery probe is inserted into the vagina, and nitrous oxide makes the tip extremely cold. The tip is touched to abnormal areas on the cervix and held there for a few minutes. You may feel some cramping at this point. The tip is removed, allowing the tissue to return to its normal temperature over the course of 3-5 minutes. This freezing/thawing cycle may be repeated several times for each abnormal area on the cervix.
You will remain lying down for at least ten minutes after the procedure. Some women may feel dizzy and/or flushed after the procedure.
How Long Will It Take?
Will It Hurt?
You will probably feel some cramping during the procedure. Some women also describe a burning sensation.
When you return home after the procedure, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- Follow your doctor's instructions .
- Wear a sanitary pad to absorb the watery discharge that normally occurs for several weeks following cryosurgery.
- If needed, take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to treat discomfort for a day or two after the procedure.
- Do not use tampons or douches. Ask your doctor when you can resume sexual relations.
- Your doctor will schedule regular pap smears in the near future.
- Baths and showers are OK.
The abnormal tissue of the cervix should shed and flow out of the body in a watery vaginal discharge over 4-6 weeks. In some cases, more than one cryosurgery session may be scheduled.
Call Your Doctor
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding other than light spotting, especially if it saturates more than one pad per hour
- Any foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Continued pain or cramping not relieved by over-the-counter pain medicines
In case of an emergency, CALL 911 immediately.
National Cancer Institute
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/ .
Gay C, Riehl C, Rmanah R, Desmoulin C, Violane B. Cryotherapy in the management of symptomatic ectopy. Gynecol Obstet Fertil. 2006;34(3):214-223.
Procedures for Primary Care Physicians . St. Louis, MO: Mosby-Year Book, Inc;1994.
Sankaranayanan R, Rajkumar R, Esmy P, et al. Effectiveness, safety and acceptability of see-and-treat with cryosurgery by nurses in a cervical screening study in India. Br J Cancer. 2007;96(5):738-743.
6/2/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed December 2010 by Ganson Purcell Jr., MD, FACOG, FACPE
Last updated Updated: 6/2/2011
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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