COVID-19 Updates

*Vaccine availability and appointments* | Additional COVID-19 Resources |  Testing

Please be aware that mask-wearing is required at all UNC Health facilities.

Cryotherapy for Abnormal Cervical Cell Changes

Surgery Overview

Cryotherapy destroys abnormal tissue on the cervix by freezing it. This treatment destroys some normal tissue along with the abnormal tissue.

Your doctor will put a tool called a speculum into your vagina. It opens the vagina a little bit. A special fluid may be put on your cervix to make the tissue easier to see. During the procedure, a very cold substance, such as liquid carbon dioxide (CO2), circulates through a probe placed next to the abnormal tissue. This freezes the tissue for 2 to 3 minutes. The tissue may be allowed to thaw and then be refrozen for another 2 to 3 minutes. A single freeze treatment for 5 minutes may also be used.

This treatment causes some discomfort. You may feel a sensation of cold and a little cramping. And sometimes a sense of warmth spreads to the upper body and face.

Cryotherapy is not the best treatment if abnormal cells are high in the cervical canal. In that case, another treatment, such as an excisional biopsy of the cervix, is recommended instead.

What To Expect

You can probably return to your normal activity level the day after the cryotherapy procedure.

If you have cryotherapy, you will have regular follow-up testing with human papillomavirus (HPV) tests, Pap tests, or colposcopic examinations. Your doctor will tell you what follow-up tests you should have and when you need to have them done.

After cryotherapy

  • You may have a watery vaginal discharge for about 2 to 3 weeks.
  • Do not have vaginal sex or place anything in your vagina for 2 to 4 weeks or until your doctor tells you it is okay. Do not douche.

Why It Is Done

Cryotherapy may be done when abnormal Pap or human papillomavirus (HPV) test results have been confirmed by colposcopy. It can treat cell changes on the cervix. But it isn't done if results of endocervical curettage show abnormal tissue high inside the cervical canal.

How Well It Works

Cryotherapy is an effective method for destroying abnormal cervical tissue. How well it works depends on the size, depth, and type of abnormal tissue. Treatment destroys all of the abnormal tissue in most cases.


The abnormal tissue won't be completely destroyed if the abnormal cells are too deep in the cervical tissue.


Current as of: November 22, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.