What is cryosurgery?

Cryosurgery is a procedure for destroying abnormal body tissues with very cold temperatures.

When is it used?

Cryosurgery is used to treat:

  • Skin problems, such as moles, hemorrhoids, warts, and some skin cancers.
  • Skin changes caused by the HPV virus, swelling and irritation of the cervix, and precancerous changes on the surface of a woman’s cervix. The cervix is the lower part of the uterus that opens into the vagina. The uterus is the muscular organ at the top of the vagina. Babies grow in the uterus, and menstrual blood comes from the uterus, through the cervix.

Cryosurgery is not done on the cervix if you are having your menstrual period or if you are pregnant. It also may not be used to treat large abnormal areas.

How do I prepare for cryosurgery?

Usually you do not have to do anything to prepare for the procedure. It is a simple procedure and can be done in your healthcare provider’s office.

Ask your healthcare provider if you will need to find someone to give you a ride home after the procedure.

Ask any questions you have before the procedure. You should understand what your healthcare provider is going to do. You have the right to make decisions about your healthcare and to give permission for any tests or procedures.

What happens during the procedure?

A very cold gas or liquid nitrogen is used to treat the skin areas. Your healthcare provider will use a cotton-tipped swab or a hollow needle called a probe to apply the cold treatment. If a probe is used, the gas or liquid nitrogen is pumped through the needle, which makes the tip very cold.

Your healthcare provider will touch the tip of the swab or probe to your skin or cervix. Some treatments take only a few seconds. Others work best if the tissue is frozen quickly, allowed to thaw for a few minutes, and then frozen again.

Depending on the area being treated, you may feel a burning or cramping sensation while the area freezes and then thaws. Although the procedure may cause some discomfort, an anesthetic (medicine to keep you from feeling pain) is rarely needed.

What happens after the procedure?

You may stay in your healthcare provider’s office for at least 20 to 30 minutes after the procedure, depending on the area that was frozen.

After treatment for problems such as warts, a small blister may form. The blister will later scab or crust over as it heals.

After cryosurgery on your cervix, you may have mild cramping in your lower belly and a watery or slightly bloody discharge from the vagina. The discharge may last up to 4 weeks.

Ask your healthcare provider:

  • How long it will take to recover
  • What activities you should avoid and when you can return to your normal activities
  • How to take care of yourself at home
  • What symptoms or problems you should watch for and what to do if you have them

Make sure you know when you should come back for a checkup.

What are the risks of this procedure?

Every procedure or treatment has risks. Some possible risks of this procedure include:

  • The treated area may be scarred or discolored.
  • You may have problems with anesthesia if it’s used.
  • You may have infection or bleeding.
  • Other parts of your body may be injured during the procedure.

Ask your healthcare provider how the risks apply to you. Be sure to discuss any other questions or concerns that you may have.

Developed by RelayHealth.
Adult Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-02-02
Last reviewed: 2013-12-22
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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