Cervical cryotherapy is a medical procedure that involves freezing and destroying the abnormal tissue in the cervix (the lower part of the uterus). The procedure may cause some discomfort. Women report some cramping or pressure and a sensation of cold in the vaginal area. Some women do not feel any discomfort or pain during the procedure. It is generally a relatively painless procedure with little or no scarring in the area treated.
What is cervical cryosurgery?
Cervical cryotherapy is a medical procedure that uses extremely cold temperatures for freezing and destroying the abnormal tissue in the cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the womb (uterus) that opens in the birth canal or vagina. Cervical cryosurgery may be done for the removal of any abnormal tissue (such as precancerous areas or mass of abnormal cells in the cervix) or to control bleeding. Removing the pre-cancerous tissue from the cervix may help prevent cervical cancer. Cervical cryosurgery may also be done to treat inflammation or swelling of the uterus called cervicitis. The procedure is relatively safe and pain-free. Most women experience mild cramps or a sensation of cold in their vagina. There may, however, be some risks associated such as follows:
- Mild scarring
Severe scarring, although rare, may cause difficulty in getting pregnant. Scarring may also cause cramps during menstrual periods.
How is cervical cryosurgery done?
How it is done:
- Cryotherapy is usually done as an outpatient procedure in the doctor’s office, clinic, or outpatient settings of a hospital. The patient can generally go home the same day.
- Before the procedure, the doctor will explain to the patient the risks associated with the procedure. They will take their detailed medical history, do a physical examination, and order investigations as needed.
- Pain medications, such as ibuprofen, may be given an hour before the procedure to reduce pain.
- The patient will be asked to take off their clothes below their waist and covered in a drape.
- The patient lies in the lithotomy position (lies on their back on the examination table with their feet raised and supported by footrests or stirrups).
- The doctor may numb the area before starting the procedure.
- The doctor will then insert a lubricated tool called a speculum into the patient’s vagina to gently spread the vaginal walls and examine the cervix.
- They will then insert a device, called a cryoprobe, inside the patient’s vagina.
- The cryoprobe is firmly placed on the abnormal tissue in the cervix. The probe has liquid nitrogen circulating through it. This makes it cold enough to freeze and destroy the abnormal tissue. Temperatures as low as −20°C may be used in the procedure.
- There is the formation of an “ice ball” on the cervix that kills the abnormal cells.
- The procedure involves cyclic freezing and thawing. The freezing phase lasts for around three minutes. This is followed by thawing the tissue for five minutes. Finally, freezing is repeated for another three minutes.
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