• Cryoablation

    What is it?

    The prefix "Cryo" means use of cold. Ablation means the separation or removal of a part of the body by surgery. Cryoablation is the use of liquid nitrogen to freeze a particular organ or area to extremely low temperatures to kill the tissue, e.g., any pre-cancerous tissue. The terms cryoablation or cryotherapy may be used to mean the same thing.

    This is a minimally invasive, non-surgical procedure that can be performed in the operating room, an outpatient surgical center or in an exam room. It uses cryogenics (extreme cold) to destroy the lining of the uterus. This will reduce or eliminate menstrual bleeding. This procedure is generally recommended to individuals who are past their childbearing years. However, there is still a need for birth control/contraception even after this procedure is done.

    Why is it ordered?

    A physician may order this procedure for abnormal uterine bleeding (also called AUB) or to treat heavy periods (menorrhagia). This treatment may be an alternative to the traditional surgical treatment called hysterectomy.

    What can I expect before and during the procedure?

    Depending upon the type of cryoablation instrument, your doctor may prescribe medications that will thin your uterine lining about 21-28 days before the procedure. You will be given specific instruction from your doctor on what you can or cannot do prior to the procedure. For example, you may not eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure.

    During the procedure, you will be placed into stirrups similar to those used in a pap test. You may receive medication or light sedation to calm you. An ultrasound system is used to help monitor the progress of your treatment. The cryoablation machine utilizes a slender wand, which is gently inserted into your uterus and is gradually cooled to subzero temperatures. You may experience some slight pressure. The extremely cold temperature is what treats the tissue and reduces subsequent bleeding.

    Post treatment, you will be observed until the doctor feels you have recovered enough to go home. Typically you may leave within hours of the procedure.

    What are the risks and complications?

    Call your physician if you experience any of the following:

    • Fever
    • Increasing pelvic pain
    • Nausea
    • Vomiting
    • Bowel or bladder problems
    • Vaginal discharge that is greenish or foul smelling

    Rare but possible side effects include:

    • Infection
    • Uterine perforation (hole in wall of uterus)
    • Excessive blood loss
    • Freezing of internal organs adjacent to or outside of your uterus
    • Hemorrhage
    • Collection of blood or tissue in the uterus or fallopian tubes

    You should not undergo this procedure if you ever want to have children This procedure will not eliminate the potential for endometrial hyperplasia (an increase in the number of cells) or adenocarcinoma of the endometrium (endometrial cancer) and could mask or hinder a physician's ability to diagnose these conditions. Currently, it is not used to treat cancers of the uterus.

    What can I expect during my recovery?

    You may experience mild cramping. Vaginal discharge that may be bloody or watery may require the use of a sanitary napkin (not a tampon), and may last 7-10 days. We recommend that you have someone drive you home after the procedure.

    You will be asked to refrain from vigorous activity, including sexual intercourse. Discuss your specific post treatment plan with your physician.
     

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