Women's Health

What is a Cervical Ablation?

What is a Cervical Ablation?

Cervical ablation is a procedure that involves the removal of the cervix’s exterior layers. The procedure is carried out when cervical cancer is noticed or suspected. If unusual cells are detected on the cervix’s surface during a pap smear, cervical ablation is used to establish if the abnormal cells are signs of cancer. If it is determined that the cells are likely to develop into cancer or if they are in the early cancer development stage, cervical ablation can be an effective treatment.


Cold knife cone biopsy (conization)

Cold knife cone biopsy is a cervix ablation method whereby the cone-shaped part is cut from its surface using a scalpel. The procedure is the most effective method for detecting cancer of the cervix. Unlike other ablation methods, cold knife cone biopsy is performed under general anesthesia, in a hospital’s surgery room.

Cervical cerclage precedes cold knife cone biopsy to reduce bleeding that can occur as a result of the procedure. Cold knife conization is normally more costly and consumes more time as compared to other methods because it involves general anesthesia and cerclage. Therefore, the procedure is mostly recommended only when the diagnosis is very accurate. 


LEEP (loop electrosurgical excision procedure)

During LEEP, the cervix is treated by an electric current passing through a wire. The loop becomes hot due to the electric current to cauterize the blood cells automatically during the removal of the cervical section. Therefore, the bleeding that arises from LEEP is less than that caused by cold knife conization.

In LEEP, general anesthesia isn’t needed and the procedure can be performed in a doctor's office, instead of a surgery room. Because cerclage isn’t normally carried out first, the chances of LEEP causing postoperative bleeding are higher than in cold knife conization. However, the bleeding is normally not intense and its treatment can be easy. Since LEEP is easier, less costly, effective and takes shorter time, the procedure is more commonly used than cold knife conization.


Laser cervical ablation

In laser cervical ablation, a section of the cervix is cut out using a laser. Cerclage sometimes precedes laser ablation since it causes more bleeding than LEEP but less than cold knife cone biopsy. Local anesthesia can be used during laser ablation. Nevertheless, better results can be achieved if the procedure is performed under general anesthesia since there will be no unnecessary movements by the patient. As compared to LEEP and cold knife cone biopsy, laser ablation takes the longest time and it is the most expensive. The diagnostic purposes of laser ablation and LEEP are almost similar. The ability of a laser to deeply remove cervical tissues from the surface makes the procedure more advantageous than cold knife cone biopsy or LEEP. 

Ablation is meant more as treatment than diagnosis. Therefore, the abnormal tissue is removed using the laser and normal tissue is left. As a result, probable future issues concerning fertility and reproduction are avoided. 


Cervical blocks

It is important to have a checkup if you experience pain in your spinal cervical region. The checkup will help in establishing the cause of the pain, thus it is important in determining the most effective treatment options.

When a cervical block is being performed, the patient is injected in the neck nerves with pain-relieving medication. The injection comprises of a local anesthetic drug and cortisone.

An X-ray guides the doctor to inject the appropriate nerve. If the pain reduces after the procedure, it is established that the pain is coming from the nerve, which becomes the point of focus for treatment. 

Sometimes, a cervical block successively treats the pain, but in other times its effectiveness doesn’t last for long. If pain goes away after a cervical block, the chances that radiofrequency ablation will be an effective treatment become high. Radiofrequency may not be a good treatment option if the cervical block didn’t minimize the pain.


Radiofrequency ablation

Radiofrequency ablation kills tissues using heat from radio waves. Pain that has resisted other methods can be relieved after a radiofrequency ablation on nerve tissue. This ablation method has been a successful treatment for heart rhythm issues. It is currently used in tumor destruction and pain treatment. 

Radiofrequency ablation relieves pain for a longer period of time than nerve blocks or other injection methods. Radiofrequency ablation successively treats many forms of chronic pain from:

  • Injuries like whiplash
  • Conditions affecting the nervous system
  • Past spinal surgical operations
  • Arthritis that affects the spine


What to expect during radiofrequency ablation

An intravenous (IV) line is inserted before the commencement of the procedure. The line is used for drug administration for comfort and relaxation purposes during the procedure. The doctor cleans and numbs the area before inserting the line.

The patient is required to be awake throughout the process to assist the doctor in placing the electrode needed for the procedure.

X-rays guide the doctor in placing the insulated needles in the appropriate position adjacent to the nerve. A small electrode is inserted into the needle. A little radiofrequency current is transmitted to the joint capsule’s middle branch nerve for one to one and a half minutes. The radiofrequency waves produce heat that damages the nerve tissue which is responsible for transmission of pain signals to the brain. 

The procedure is carried out with sanitary methods to reduce the chances of infections. The patient is then transferred to a recovery room after the procedure. Nurses monitor the patient and make sure there are no negative reactions to the procedure. You can go home once the nurses confirm that you are stable. Take about a day of rest and avoid driving a car within that period.

After radiofrequency ablation, you may experience pain for a couple of days. You may be given pain relievers to use until the pain disappears. The injection site may also become swollen or bruised. A cold compression assists in minimizing the swelling.


Radiofrequency ablation preparation

Some of the things that your doctor may ask you to do as you wait to have a radiofrequency ablation include:

  • Plan to have a person to take you home after the procedure
  • Avoid eating or drinking for not less than six hours before the procedure
  • If you are taking drugs, you may do so with little water
  • If you are diabetic, avoid taking insulin or diabetes tablet drugs until the procedure is completed
  • Abstain from taking aspirin or drugs comprising of aspirin for not less than 11 days before radiofrequency ablation
  • Do not wear jewelry during the procedure
  • On the morning of the procedure day, bathe using antibacterial soap
  • Put on clothes that can be easily worn or taken off



The intensity of pain relieved after radiofrequency ablation is different among patients. The full effectiveness of the procedure can be realized at least three weeks after its completion. The pain relief may take place for six to twelve months or more. Radiofrequency ablation may be required again in case the nerve grows back. After radiofrequency ablation, the patient becomes more active than before.


Probable complications

Although radiofrequency ablation isn't a surgical operation and rather a low-risk treatment option, sometimes complications arise.

Some of the complications that may be caused by this procedure include infections, senselessness or allergies. You will be informed by your doctor about the symptoms and signs that are worth much of your attention.