Cryocautery or cryosurgery is a procedure that uses very cold temperatures to treat abnormalities of the female genital tract in addition to other areas of the body such as the skin. Very cold temperatures cause tissue destruction just as very hot temperatures do (a burn). The advantage of using a very cold temperature is there is much less discomfort than with hot temperature. The most common reasons for performing a cryocautery in gynecology are
- abnormalities of the cervix as demonstrated on Pap smear or colposcopy,
- resistant infections of the cervix, and
- severe cervical erosion (tissue that may cause cervical bleeding and/or heavy discharge).
- lesions in the vagina and also on the skin just outside the vagina.
How is cryocautery of the cervix performed?
A speculum is inserted into the vagina as if you were going to have a Pap smear. A small instrument with a metal tip is then placed against the cervix (or vagina) and liquid nitrous oxide is circulated through the metal tip. The circulating nitrous oxide causes extremely cold temperature in the metal tip; this is transferred to the cervix or vagina.
The freezing is done for approximately 2 to 5 minutes, and then the cervix or vagina is allowed to thaw for an equal length of time. The freezing is repeated a second time in order to give the best chance of removing the abnormal tissue. If the cryocautery is being performed for a cervical abnormality, you will be advised to have a repeat Pap smear in three to four months to assure that the lesion or abnormality has not returned.
What are the effects and after-effects of the cryocautery?
During the procedure itself, most patients say they feel a mild pressure or mild menstrual-like cramping in the lower part of their abdomen. Some patients state they feel absolutely no discomfort at all, and a very rare patient will say that the procedure is quite uncomfortable. Many physicians recommend taking medication such as ibuprofen 30 to 60 minutes before the procedure to reduce the cramping. After the procedure is completed, you may expect a very heavy, watery discharge which at some times may be bloody. This discharge may last up to one month. As long as you are having the discharge, it is important that you drink plenty of liquids so you do not become dehydrated.
You will most likely want to wear a mini pad while you are having the discharge. Rarely, a patient will say that she has moderate to severe cramping several days after the procedure. If this is a problem for you, it is suggested that you take ibuprofen or similar medication that you would normally take for menstrual cramps. If this is not adequate to eliminate the discomfort, you should call your physician. Because of the heavy discharge and the affect of the cryocautery on the cervix or vagina, it is advised that you abstain from intercourse for approximately two weeks.
The information provided by Advanced Healthcare for Women and E. Daniel Biggerstaff, III, M.D. is for informational purposes only. As each woman is unique, do not rely on this information for diagnosis and treatment. We cannot guarantee the accuracy of the content and advise that you see a qualified Health Care Professional for individual needs and care.