Leep Procedure Complications

Female doctor smiling, portrait
Female doctor smiling. (Image: Siri Stafford/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

A routine Pap smear may reveal abnormal cells, usually caused by HPV, on a woman’s cervix. This condition, called cervical dysplasia, may lead to cancer. A loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) removes abnormal cells from the cervix. The procedure uses a wire loop attached to an electrosurgical generator to cut away cervical tissue with electricity. According to the Cleveland Clinic, the procedure takes about 10 to 20 minutes. Although the LEEP is generally safe, risks and complications may occur.

Vaginal Drainage

According to the Cleveland Clinic, the doctor places a medication in the vagina following the procedure. This medication may drain out making a greenish-yellow or a brownish-black. A pinkish, watery discharge may occur also. All these discharges are normal and are not a concern. The drainage may occur for up to 3 weeks. A foul odor accompanying the discharge needs reporting to the doctor.

Bleeding

Bleeding or spotting can occur following LEEP. Increasing activity too quickly may increase the chance of bleeding, especially in the first 48 hours. The bleeding might become heavy or produce large blood clots. Any bleeding heavier than a normal period is a concern and needs to be reported to the doctor. Avoiding exercise and heavy lifting for a few weeks following the procedure helps decrease the chance of bleeding problems.

Infection

An infection can develop after the procedure. Signs of an infection are a fever, foul-smelling discharge or an increase in pelvic or abdominal pain. Avoiding all vaginal activity, including the use of tampons, douches, tub baths and sexual intercourse for 3 weeks helps decrease the chance of developing an infection after LEEP. Using menstrual pads is permitted.

Pain

Some mild pain and cramping are normal and expected following LEEP. Over-the-counter medications can help control the pain and cramps associated with the procedure. Experiencing pain worse than mild discomfort signifies a complication, such as an infection. Pain that resolves but returns or pain that worsens without improvement needs further evaluation.

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