Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP)
Frequently Asked Questions Expand All
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 Abnormal Cervical Cancer Screening Test Results.]
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.
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.
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.
After the procedure, you may have
a watery, pinkish discharge
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
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.
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).
Anesthesia: Relief of pain by loss of sensation.
Cells: The smallest units of a structure in the body. Cells are the building blocks for all parts of the body.
Cervical Cancer: A type of cancer that is in the cervix, the opening to the uterus at the top of the vagina.
Cervix: The lower, narrow end of the uterus at the top of the vagina.
Colposcope: A special magnifying instrument used to examine the cervix, vagina, and vulva.
Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP): A procedure that removes abnormal tissue from the cervix using a thin wire loop and electric energy.
Menstrual Period: The monthly shedding of blood and tissue from the uterus.
Menstruation: The monthly shedding of blood and tissue from the uterus that happens when a woman is not pregnant.
Obstetrician–Gynecologist (Ob-Gyn): A doctor with special training and education in women’s health.
Pelvic Exam: A physical examination of a woman’s pelvic organs.
Sexual Intercourse: The act of the penis of the male entering the vagina of the female. Also called “having sex” or “making love.”
Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs): Infections that are spread by sexual contact. Infections include chlamydia, gonorrhea, human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes, syphilis, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV, the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]).
Speculum: An instrument used to hold open the walls of the vagina.
Vagina: A tube-like structure surrounded by muscles. The vagina leads from the uterus to the outside of the body.
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Last updated: February 2022
Last reviewed: July 2021
Copyright 2023 by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. All rights reserved. Read copyright and permissions information.
This information is designed as an educational aid for the public. It offers current information and opinions related to women's health. It is not intended as a statement of the standard of care. It does not explain all of the proper treatments or methods of care. It is not a substitute for the advice of a physician. Read ACOG’s complete disclaimer.
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