Cryotherapy destroys abnormal tissue on the
cervix by freezing it. Cryotherapy destroys some
normal tissue along with the abnormal tissue. During cryotherapy, 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. It 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.
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 adequate treatment if abnormal cells are high
in the cervical canal. In that case, another treatment, such as a
cone biopsy, is recommended instead of
How it is done
Cryotherapy is usually done at your
doctor's office, a clinic, or a hospital as an outpatient procedure. You do not
have to spend a night in the hospital.
You will need to take off
your clothes below the waist and drape a paper or cloth covering around your
waist. You will then lie on your back on an exam table with your feet raised
and supported by footrests (stirrups). Your doctor will insert a lubricated tool called a speculum into your vagina. The speculum gently spreads
apart the vaginal walls, allowing the inside of the vagina and the cervix to be
Your doctor may use medicine to numb the cervix
What To Expect After Surgery
Most women are able to return to their
normal activity level the day after the cryotherapy procedure.
- A watery vaginal discharge will occur for
about 2 to 3 weeks.
- Pads should be used instead of tampons for 2 to
- Sexual intercourse should be avoided for 2 to 3
Douching should not be done for 2 to 3 weeks.
When to call your doctor
Call your doctor if you
have any of the following symptoms:
- A fever
- Moderate to heavy
bleeding (more than you would usually have during a menstrual
- Increasing pelvic pain
- Bad-smelling or
yellowish vaginal discharge, which may point to an infection
Why It Is Done
Cryotherapy is done when abnormal Pap
test results have been confirmed by
colposcopy. If the results of
endocervical curettage do not 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, depending on the size, depth, and type
of abnormal tissue. Studies have had differing results. They show that cryotherapy destroys all of the abnormal tissue in 77 to 96 out of 100 cases.1
Destruction of the abnormal tissue will not be
complete if the abnormal cells are too deep in the cervical tissue.
What To Think About
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.
Cryotherapy is not a treatment for cervical cancer.
Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.
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.
Primary Medical Reviewer
||Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer
||Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as of
||March 12, 2014