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Loop Electrosurgical Excision Procedure (LEEP) for Abnormal Cervical Cell Changes

Surgery Overview

A loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) removes tissue from the cervix. You may have this done if you've had a Pap test or colposcopy that shows tissue that isn't normal.

During LEEP, your doctor will put a tool called a speculum into your vagina. It opens the vagina a little bit. This lets your doctor see the cervix and inside the vagina. A special fluid is sometimes put on your cervix to make certain areas easier to see.

You may get a shot of medicine to numb the cervix. You may feel cramps when you have the shot. You may also get pain medicine.

Your doctor will put a device with a fine wire loop into your vagina. The doctor uses the heated wire to cut out tissue. After the procedure, another doctor will look at the tissue under a microscope and check it for abnormal cells.

You may have mild cramps for several hours after LEEP. A dark brown discharge during the first week is normal. You may have some spotting for about 3 weeks.

LEEP is done in a doctor's office, a clinic, or a hospital. It takes only a few minutes. You can go home after the procedure.

You can probably return to your normal routine in about a week. How long it takes you to recover will depend on how much was done.

What To Expect

You may have:

  • Mild cramping for a few hours after the procedure.
  • A dark brown vaginal discharge during the first week.
  • Vaginal discharge or spotting for about 3 weeks.

Do not have vaginal sex or place anything in your vagina for 2 to 4 weeks after surgery or until your doctor tells you it is okay.

You can probably return to your normal routine in about a week. But how long it takes you to recover will depend on how much was done.

Depending on the biopsy results, you will have regular follow-up testing with HPV tests, Pap tests, or colposcopic examinations. Your doctor will tell you what follow-up tests you should have and when you need to have them done.

Why It Is Done

LEEP may be used to treat cell changes on the cervix. It can also help to diagnose abnormal cells. The tissue that is removed during LEEP can be checked for abnormal cell changes or cancer.

Learn more

How Well It Works

LEEP works very well to treat abnormal cell changes on the cervix.

If all of the abnormal tissue is removed, you won't need more surgery. In most cases, doctors are able to remove all the abnormal cells. But abnormal cells may come back in the future.


Most people don't have problems after LEEP. But there are some risks.

  • A few people may have serious bleeding that requires further treatment.
  • Infection of the cervix or uterus may develop (rare).
  • Narrowing of the cervix (cervical stenosis) that can cause infertility may occur (rare).
  • The cervix may not stay closed during pregnancy (incompetent cervix). Having LEEP may increase the risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery.


Current as of: November 27, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.