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Cryotherapy for Abnormal Cervical Cell Changes

Surgery Overview

Cryotherapy destroys abnormal tissue on the cervix by freezing it. This treatment destroys some normal tissue along with the abnormal tissue. During the procedure, liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), which is very cold, circulates through a probe placed next to the abnormal tissue. This freezes the tissue for 2 to 3 minutes. The tissue may be allowed to thaw and then be refrozen for another 2 to 3 minutes. A single freeze treatment for 5 minutes may also be used.

This treatment causes some discomfort. Most women feel a sensation of cold and a little cramping. And sometimes a sense of warmth spreads to the upper body and face.

Cryotherapy is not the best treatment if abnormal cells are high in the cervical canal. In that case, another treatment, such as a cone biopsy, is recommended instead.

Your doctor will put a tool called a speculum into your vagina. It opens your vagina. A special fluid may be put on your cervix to make the tissue easier to see.

Your doctor will freeze the tissue with a probe that can get very cold.

What To Expect

Most women are able to return to their normal activity level the day after the cryotherapy procedure.

If you have cryotherapy, you need regular follow-up Pap tests. Pap tests should be repeated every 4 to 6 months or as recommended by your doctor. After several Pap test results are normal, you and your doctor can decide how often to schedule future Pap tests.

After cryotherapy

  • You'll have a watery vaginal discharge for about 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Use pads instead of tampons for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Avoid sexual intercourse for 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Don't douche for 2 to 3 weeks.

Why It Is Done

Cryotherapy is done when abnormal Pap test results have been confirmed by colposcopy. If the results of endocervical curettage don't show abnormal tissue high inside the cervical canal, then cryotherapy can be used to treat the abnormal tissue seen with colposcopy.

How Well It Works

Cryotherapy is an effective method for destroying abnormal cervical tissue. How well it works depends on the size, depth, and type of abnormal tissue. Studies have had differing results. They show that this treatment destroys all of the abnormal tissue in 77 to 96 out of 100 cases.footnote 1

Risks

The abnormal tissue won't be completely destroyed if the abnormal cells are too deep in the cervical tissue.

References

Citations

  1. Garcia F, et al. (2012). Intraepithelial diseases of the cervix, vagina, and vulva. In JS Berek, ed., Berek and Novak's Gynecology, 15th ed., pp. 574–618. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Credits

Current as of: February 11, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

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