LEEP is a treatment that prevents cervical cancer and stands for “loop electrosurgical excision procedure.” The tool has a wire loop on its end that is heated through an electric current, so the doctor can remove cells and tissue on the cervix or in the vagina.
When LEEP is Prescribed
Doctors use LEEP to diagnose or treat abnormal conditions, including identifying precancerous or abnormal cells. The procedure may be done to take a biopsy sample, which can be used to diagnose cervical cancer. LEEP surgery is typically performed if abnormal cells are found during a Pap test or colposcopy, or if the tests suggest the presence of cervical dysplasia. The procedure removes all of the abnormal tissue through an excision using a specially designed wire loop under local anesthesia.
Cervical dysplasia is often caused by an HPV infection, which is considered the main risk factor for the development of cervical cancer. While LEEP can remove all the abnormal cervical cells through an excision, it is not a cure for HPV. Even after the cells are cleared, ongoing monitoring is required to ensure that abnormal cells are treated promptly if they develop.
If you are trying to get pregnant, discuss this with your doctor before having LEEP performed, as it may affect your ability to become pregnant. You should not have LEEP if you are pregnant unless there are strong indicators of cervical cancer.
Preparing for LEEP
The specialist will discuss instructions prior to the procedure. Generally, it is not recommended that LEEP be performed during menstruation since bleeding makes it difficult to adequately visualize the tissue.
Typically, abstaining from food or drink prior to the procedure is not necessary. If taking take blood thinners, it may be necessary to stop or decrease the dosage of these before the procedure.
What to Expect During LEEP
LEEP is a minimally-invasive, brief procedure that usually takes about 10-20 minutes. You’ll lie on an exam table and the doctor will use a speculum (a duck-bill-device commonly used during vaginal exams) to examine your vagina, just as if you were undergoing a Pap test.
A vinegary liquid may be used to clean and soak the cervix, so the abnormal cells will be easier to see. This liquid may sting a little. The doctor will then administer a local anesthetic.
The doctor will then examine the cervix and inside the vagina using a colposcope, a tool that looks like a microscope and allows the doctor to adequately see the cells up close.
You may feel cramps or some pressure inside during the procedure. If you experience faintness or lightheaded during the pressure, tell your doctor.
Results & Recovery After LEEP
You’ll be able to return home shortly after the procedure. You may have mild cramping for a day or so. You should not experience much or any bleeding following the surgery. Your doctor will apply medicine on the excision to stop any bleeding. This medication may cause a dark discharge and spotting for a few days.
Some things to avoid after having LEEP:
- Avoid douching or using tampons for at least 3 weeks. Use pads or panty-liners instead.
- Avoid vaginal intercourse for at least 3 weeks.
Common side effects and short-term complications of LEEP include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Bacterial infection
- Cervicitis (inflammation of the cervix)
- Endometritis (inflammation of the uterus)
- Vaginal discharge
Serious problems and complications occur after LEEP. However, you should call your specialist right away if you experience any of the following:
- Severe abdominal pain
- Fever or chills
- Vaginal discharge that smells foul
- Unusual vaginal bleeding or bleeding that’s heavier than the heaviest day of your period
How Advanced Gynecology Can Help
For more information, schedule an appointment today or call us to speak with one of our patient coordinators.