LEEP (Loop Electrical Excision Procedure)
What is a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) and why is it done?
Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) is a treatment to remove precancerous cells from the cervix. Removing precancerous cells helps stop them from developing into cervical cancer. Read more…
The procedure uses a small wire loop that is attached to an electrical current. When the loop is passed over cervical tissue, it cuts away a layer of abnormal cells. The removed tissue is sent to a lab for testing.
What happens during a LEEP?
To start the procedure, you will lie on an exam table and place your legs in stirrups. Your ob-gyn will insert a speculum into your vagina in the same way as for a pelvic exam. Your ob-gyn may use a colposcope to better see the cervix.
Local anesthesia may be used to numb the cervix. Your ob-gyn also may apply a vinegar solution to the cervix to see the abnormal cells better. Application of this solution or the numbing medication may sting.
The loop is inserted through the speculum and passed over the cervix to cut away abnormal tissue. You may feel pressure, a dull ache, or a cramp. Some women feel faint during the procedure. If you feel faint, tell your ob-gyn. After the abnormal cells have been removed, a special paste may be applied to the cervix to stop any bleeding.
The tissue that is removed will be sent to a lab. Your obstetrician–gynecologist (ob-gyn) should let you know the results when the testing is complete.
The procedure should be done when you are not having your menstrual period to give a better view of the cervix. In most cases, LEEP is done in the office of an ob-gyn. The procedure takes a few minutes.
What are the risks of LEEP?
The most common risk in the first 3 weeks after a LEEP is heavy bleeding. If you have heavy bleeding, call your ob-gyn. You may need to have more of the paste applied to the cervix to stop it.
LEEP may be associated with an increased risk of future pregnancy problems. Although most women have no problems, there is a small increase in the risk of premature births and having a low birth weight baby. In rare cases, the cervix is narrowed after the procedure. This narrowing may cause problems with menstruation.
What should I expect during recovery from LEEP?
After the procedure, you may have
- A watery, pinkish discharge
- Mild cramping
- A brownish-black discharge (from the paste used)
It will take a few weeks for your cervix to heal. While your cervix heals, you should not place anything in the vagina, such as tampons or douches. You should not have sexual intercourse. Your ob-gyn should tell you when it is safe to do so
You should contact your ob-gyn if you have any of the following problems:
- Heavy bleeding (more than your normal period)
- Bleeding with clots
- Severe abdominal pain
Will I need follow-up visits?
After the procedure, you will need to see your ob-gyn for follow-up visits. You will have tests to be sure that the abnormal cells are gone and that they have not returned. If you have another abnormal test result, you may need more treatment.
How can I keep my cervix healthy after a LEEP?
You can help protect the health of your cervix by following these guidelines:
- Have regular pelvic exams and screening tests for cervical cancer.
- Stop smoking Smoking increases your risk of cancer of the cervix.
- Limit your number of sexual partners and use condoms to reduce your risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).