Cryosurgery of the cervix, also called cervical ablation, uses liquid nitrogen to treat suspicious cells. It’s used for precancerous tissue that could turn cancerous and unusual bleeding. The procedure takes a few minutes in a medical office. There are very few risks, and you can go back to most activities almost immediately.
Cryosurgery of the cervix uses extremely cold chemicals, like liquid nitrogen, to destroy suspicious cells or tissue in a woman’s cervix. This inch-long tube forms the lower part of the uterus and connects to the vagina.
Cryosurgery of the cervix is one example of a treatment called cryotherapy. Other names for this treatment include cryoablation and cryosurgical ablation.
Cervical cryotherapy can help women who have:
Cryosurgery takes place in a healthcare provider’s office while you’re awake.
Before the procedure, your healthcare provider may or may not use local anesthesia, a medication to numb the area. Occasionally, you may also receive a sedative, a medication to help you relax.
Your healthcare provider may offer warm blankets to keep you more comfortable.
The procedure takes only a few minutes. While you’re lying on an exam table, the healthcare provider will:
You’ll be able to go home the same day as treatment.
As the frozen cells thaw, they either get absorbed by the body or flushed out through the vagina. The discharged (leaked) substance is often watery but sometimes a little thicker. It may contain a small amount of blood. This may last up to several weeks. You may want to wear a pad.
Your healthcare provider will tell you how and when to follow up. Most people need a test a few weeks or months later to make sure the cells were destroyed. Options may include:
Cryosurgery is less invasive than other types of surgery, so it involves less pain, bleeding, and risk of other complications. It’s also less expensive and requires less time than other types of surgery.
The procedure doesn’t harm nearby tissues. It can get repeated or combined with other treatments if needed.
Cryoablation is generally safe, and it shouldn’t affect your ability to get pregnant later. But it may cause:
Cryosurgery of the cervix is effective about 90% of the time, and abnormal cells usually don’t come back. If they do, you may need more cryotherapy or another treatment.
Most people can go back to their normal routines right away. Talk to your healthcare provider about how long you should rest or if you should avoid any activities.
Your provider may recommend avoiding vaginal intercourse, tampons and douching for a few days to a few weeks. That may help you heal and prevent infection.
You should call your healthcare provider right away if you have certain warning signs. They could signal an infection or other complication and include:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you have precancerous cells or unusual bleeding in the cervix, cryosurgery may help. The procedure uses extremely cold chemicals to freeze and destroy suspicious cells and tissue. The procedure is safe and effective, and you can go back to most normal activities immediately.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/15/2021.
Learn more about our editorial process.