What is a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) and why is it done?
If you have an abnormal cervical cancer screening result, your health care provider may suggest that you have a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) as part of the evaluation or for treatment. LEEP is one way to remove abnormal cells from the cervix by using a thin wire loop that acts like a scalpel (surgical knife). An electric current is passed through the loop, which cuts away a thin layer of the cervix.
How is LEEP performed?
A LEEP 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 a health care provider’s office. The procedure only takes a few minutes.
During the procedure you will lie on your back and place your legs in stirrups. The health care provider then will insert a speculum into your vagina in the same way as for a pelvic exam. Local anesthesia will be used to prevent pain. It is given through a needle attached to a syringe. You may feel a slight sting, then a dull ache or cramp. The loop is inserted into the vagina to the cervix. There are different sizes and shapes of loops that can be used. You may feel faint during the procedure. If you feel faint, tell your health care provider immediately.
After the procedure, a special paste may be applied to your cervix to stop any bleeding. Electrocautery also may be used to control bleeding. The tissue that is removed will be studied in a lab to confirm the diagnosis.
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) that looks like coffee grounds
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 intercourse. Your health care provider will tell you when it is safe to do so.
You should contact your health care provider 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 health care provider for follow-up visits. You will have cervical cancer screening to be sure that all of the abnormal cells are gone and that they have not returned. If you have another abnormal screening test result, you may need more treatment.
- It is normal to have some mild cramping after your procedure. You may take medications like Ibuprofen ( Advil, Motrin- up to 600 mg every 6 hours) and /or acetaminophen ( Tylenol as directed on bottle) to help reduce the discomfort cramping.
- You may have some light bleeding after the procedure. Please contact the office if you soak more than one pad per hour. A brownish-black discharge (coffee ground texture) with light bleeding for the first week is normal. You may not notice any of these symptoms. That is ok too.
- Avoid heavy lifting and vigorous exercise for 1 week.
- Do not use tampons for 2 weeks. Use pads during this time.
- Do not have intercourse for 2 weeks.
- Shower, rather than taking tub baths. No swimming, Jacuzzis, or hot tubs for 2 weeks.
- You will receive a prescription for Flagyl, an antibiotic that treats bacterial vaginosis (BV). BV is a bacterial overgrowth that sometimes develops in the vagina after a LEEP procedure. If you notice foul smelling vaginal discharge, you may take flagyl to treat it. If you do not develop BV symptoms, you do not have to fill the prescription.
- If you have severe abdominal pain or fever greater than 100.4, please call the office.