Cryosurgery - female

Alternative names
Cervix surgery; Cervix treatment - cryosurgery

Definition
This is a surgical treatment to freeze and destroy abnormal surgical tissue (cryosurgery). It uses instruments called cryo probes and extremely cold temperatures.

Description

Cryotherapy is an office procedure done while the patient is awake. The vaginal canal is held open so that the cervix can be seen. The cryo probe is inserted into the vagina, and placed firmly on the surface of the cervix, covering the abnormal tissue.

Compressed gaseous nitrogen (temperature approximately -50 degrees Celsius) flows through the instrument, making the metal cold enough to freeze and destroy the tissue.

Although some slight cramping may occur, cryosurgery is relatively painless, and produces very little scarring. An “ice ball” forms on the cervix, killing the superficial abnormal cells. For optimal treatment, the freezing is done for 3 minutes, the cervix is allowed to thaw, then the freezing is repeated for an additional 3 minutes.

Indications

Appropriate uses of cryosurgery include:

Your doctor will help you to decide if cryosurgery is appropriate for your condition.

Risks

Risks for any surgery are:

     
  • Bleeding  
  • Infection

Other risks include:
Cervical stenosis (scarring), which may make it more difficult to get pregnant, or cause increased cramping with menstrual periods.

Expectations after surgery

The surgery is effective at a minimum cost. A repeat Pap smear or biopsy should be done at a follow-up visit to ensure that the operation was successful in killing abnormal tissue.

Convalescence

Almost all normal activities can be resumed immediately after surgery. Avoidance of sexual intercourse, as well as douching, may be recommended for several weeks. For 2 or 3 weeks after the surgery, there will be a profuse, watery discharge caused by the sloughing of the dead cervical tissue.

Sometimes a woman will feel light-headed immediately following the procedure and may faint. If this happens, lying down flat on the examination table will prevent fainting, and this sensation will go away within a few minutes.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 6, 2012
by Simon D. Mitin, M.D.

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