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What is a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) and why is it done?

If you have an abnormal cervical cancer screening result (Pap smear), 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.

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, contact your health care provider. You may need to have more of the paste applied to the cervix to stop it.

LEEP has been 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. It also may make it difficult to become pregnant.

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 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 screenings 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.

You can help protect the health of your cervix by following these guidelines:

  • Have regular pelvic exams and cervical cancer screenings.
  • 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 diseases.