The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus (womb) that is located at the top of the vagina. Cervical cryosurgery is the use of extreme cold to freeze areas of the cervix.
Reasons for Procedure
This procedure is done to destroy and remove abnormal cells of the cervix, particularly precancerous cells.
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Complications are rare. However, no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have this procedure, your doctor will review a list of possible complications. These may include:
- Lightheadedness, fainting, hot flashes (during or right after the procedure)
- Cramping (during the procedure)
- Scarring or narrowing of the cervical opening
Factors that may put you at risk for complications during this procedure include:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
You may want to plan for someone to drive you home.
Normally, no medications are needed for this procedure. However, over-the-counter pain medications are usually taken. They should be taken about an hour before your appointment. Ask your doctor if this is recommended for you.
Description of Procedure
A device called a speculum is inserted into the vagina to hold it open. The cryosurgery probe is inserted into the vagina. Nitrous oxide makes the tip extremely cold. The tip is touched to abnormal areas on the cervix. It is held there for a few minutes. The tip is removed. This allows the tissue to return to its normal temperature over the course of 3-5 minutes. This freezing and 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 lightheaded 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:
- Do not use tampons. Ask your doctor when you can resume sexual relations.
- Your doctor will schedule regular pap smears in the near future.
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 soaks more than one pad per hour
- Any foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Continued pain or cramping not relieved by over-the-counter pain medications
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
National Cancer Institute
Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
Cryosurgery of the cervix. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9120-cryosurgery-of-the-cervix. Updated July 18, 2014. Accessed December 13, 2017.
Gay C, Riehl C, et al. Cryotherapy in the management of symptomatic ectopy. Gynecol Obstet Fertil. 2006;34(3):214-223.
Sankaranayanan R, Rajkumar R, 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 Plus Systematic Literature Surveillancehttps://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use: 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 November 2018 by Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 12/20/2014