Cryocautery in the treatment of chronic cervicitis

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.
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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.