What is LEEP?
LEEP stands for loop electrosurgical (ee-lektro-SIR-jeh-kal) excision (ex-SIH-zhun) procedure. Your doctor may recommend LEEP if your Pap test or biopsy results show that you have abnormal cells on your cervix (the lower end of your uterus). It is an outpatient procedure, so you will not stay in the hospital overnight. It usually is done at your doctor’s office.
LEEP is an effective treatment for abnormal cell growth, called dysplasia (dis-PLAY-zha). Dysplasia is not cancer. But it could lead to cervical cancer if you don’t get treatment. LEEP removes the abnormal tissue from your cervix. Some types of treatment destroy the abnormal tissue. LEEP preserves the tissue, so it can be checked to make sure no cancer is present.
How is LEEP done?
LEEP is done when you do not have your period. This lets the doctor see your cervix clearly. Before the procedure, you will be asked to sign a consent form. Your doctor may give you medicine to prevent cramping. The procedure itself usually takes only a few minutes.
During the procedure, your doctor will:
- Put local anesthesia into your cervix to numb it
- Look at your cervix with a special magnifier, called a colposcope (KOL-poh-skope)
- Remove the abnormal cells from your cervix. To do this, the doctor will use a thin, wire loop with an electrical current. Because the wire is so thin, there is very little damage to surrounding tissue.
- Put a medicated paste on your cervix to help prevent bleeding During the procedure, you may have some mild cramping. This cramping may continue for a little while after the procedure.
Problems after the procedure (complications) are rare, but may include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Severe cramping
- Incomplete removal of abnormal tissue
- Narrowing of the cervix
- A weakened cervix that may cause problems during pregnancy
- Cutting or burning of normal tissue
What happens after the procedure?
After the procedure, the tissue will be sent to the lab to be studied. Your doctor will let you know the results at your follow-up visit. As your cervix heals, you may notice one or more of the following:
- Thick, brownish-black discharge (a normal result of the paste used at the end of your procedure)
- Watery discharge that may have an odor
- Mild cramping
- Slight vaginal bleeding
- Heavier bleeding during your next period
Things to avoid as you recover
You can return to most of your normal activities soon after LEEP. To help your cervix heal, avoid the following for 4 weeks after the procedure:
- Sexual intercourse
- Heavy lifting
- Vigorous exercise
Talk with your doctor to see if there are any other activities you should avoid during recovery.
When to call the doctor
Be sure to call your doctor if you have any of the following:
- Heavy bleeding (soaking more than 1 pad in an hour) or bleeding with clots
- Severe lower belly pain
You will have a follow-up visit about 4 weeks after the LEEP procedure. At that time, your cervix will be checked for healing. Your doctor will tell you the results of the tissue that was sent to the lab.
For the first year after the LEEP procedure, you will need to have Pap tests, colposcopy exams, or both, more often. Your doctor will talk with you about your follow-up instructions.