A watery or sticky vaginal discharge or leak will continue for approximately 20-25 days after cryosurgery. Cervical cryotherapy is often followed by a heavy and often odorous discharge during the first month after the procedure. The discharge is due to dead tissue cells leaving the treatment site. As per research, the cryosurgical healing process was not pleasant and was least tolerable for obese and older women. Most women undergoing cryosurgery may need more pads than they do for normal periods, especially if their previous menses were light. During this period,
- Patients may need to use pads instead of tampons.
- Sexual intercourse should be avoided.
- Douching, stretching, and exercises are not recommended for at least 30 days after the procedure.
In cervical cryosurgery/cryoablation, abnormal cells from the cervix (opening of the womb) are destroyed using liquid nitrogen. The procedure is usually completed within 15-30 minutes. During cryotherapy, the tissue that includes the abnormal cells is frozen, thereby destroying it. The tissue that grows back is usually normal. In most cases, around 90% of abnormal cells are destroyed with only one treatment.
- Patients may be asked to lie on an exam table with their feet up in stirrups.
- An instrument called a speculum is inserted into the vagina to hold it open.
- A local anesthetic may be used to numb the cervix.
- A thin probe is held on the cervix. This creates a ball of ice that freezes and kills the tissue. This step may be done a few times. Compressed gaseous nitrogen (temperature approximately −50°C) flows through the instrument, making the metal cold enough to freeze and destroy the tissue.
- Patients may likely have cramps while the ice is touching the cervix.
- Patients may feel lightheaded. This will go away when the procedure is over.
- Patients may rest for some time and are discharged home on the same day after the procedure.
The risks of cervical cryotherapy are fairly low. They may include:
- A watery vaginal discharge with or without bleeding that may continue for a few days
- Scarring of the cervix
- The need for further treatment. In a small number of cases, cryotherapy doesn’t completely remove the abnormal cells. This is more likely if the abnormal cells are deep in the cervix. If this happens, patients might need to get cryotherapy again or opt for a different treatment.
- Allergic reactions toward anesthesia
- Lightheadedness, fainting, and hot flashes (during or right after the procedure)
Why is cervical cryotherapy done?
- Dysplasia: This occurs when cells in the cervix change in ways that aren’t normal. This is often caused by a sexually transmitted virus called human papillomavirus (HPV).
- Condyloma (warts): These can grow on the cervix. These are also caused by HPV.
- Chronic cervicitis: This is a recurring swelling of the cervix.
How does cryotherapy affect pregnancy?
Cryotherapy shouldn’t affect the ability to get pregnant in the future unless a very rare complication occurs. In cases where the abnormal cells are detected during pregnancy, doctors may wait until patients give birth to treat abnormal cervical cells. Delaying treatment is usually safe because it generally takes a long time for abnormal cervical cells to become cancerous.