Cervical cryotherapy, also known as cryocautery, or cryoconization is usually employed to treat chronic inflammation of the cervix, cervical dysplasia, chronic cervicitis, abnormal pap smear, warts etc.
Like any other cryotherapy, cervical cryotherapy also involves freezing abnormal tissues. Most cases of cervical cancer are linked to an HPV infection. HPV generally causes genital warts and sometimes warts on other parts of the body. Just as these warts are frozen and destroyed, so also is the case with cervical lesions.
Often the same instrument is used for cervical cryotherapy as for HPV, the only difference being the type of freezing tip used.
The procedure involves bringing a device known as a cryoprobe in contact with the cervical tissues which need to be destroyed. Nitrous oxide is then circulated through the probe which causes the tip of the probe to turn freezing cold (almost -89° C). The freezing takes approximately 3-4 minutes. The frozen tissues are then allowed to thaw slowly. Usually, the procedure requires a second round of freezing and thawing. The entire procedure should take 15-20 minutes.
Like any other surgery, cervical cryotherapy too may have some side-effects which include:
Rarely an infection or a condition called cervical stenosis may occur.
Cervical stenosis refers to scarring, which may make it difficult to get pregnant. But this is quite rare.
Recovery after cryotherapy of the cervix is fast. The patient can resume most normal activities after surgery. However, certain precautions need to be taken, such as abstaining from sexual intercourse and using tampons for many weeks. Avoid douching, as this could cause severe uterus and tubal infections. Also, strenuous exercises and physical activities should be avoided as this may lead to post-surgical bleeding.
The surgery is often followed by an odorous watery discharge. This may continue for 2-3 weeks and is caused because of shedding of dead tissues of the cervix.
Cryotherapy is generally done in a doctor's office while patient is still awake, and it may be the most cost-effective treatment as compared to other treatments like LEEP (Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure). Certain insurance companies may cover part-payment, but it is best to consult with your insurance to find out what exactly is covered.