If, after a gynecological exam, your gynecology specialist in Boca Raton recommends a LEEP, it’s natural to be a bit curious, especially when you don’t know anything about the procedure. To make things clearer, LEEP or loop electrosurgical excision procedure is a treatment that can be used to prevent cancer of the cervix. In some cases, the cervix can develop abnormal cells (often caused by HPV), and Dr. Ellman and his colleagues can use the procedure to remove cells for testing or make space for healthy cells to grow. If you’re scheduled for LEEP, here’s what you need to know.
What Is the LEEP Procedure?
Loop electrosurgical excision procedure, or LEEP for short, is a procedure that uses a heated wire loop to remove cells with great precision. This procedure is mainly used on the lower genital tract in women (cervix and vagina) during the diagnosis or treatment of abnormal cells. During the surgery, your doctor will use the electric current loop to slice a small piece of suspicious tissue, send it to the testing lab, or just remove it from the cervix or vagina. With LEEP, it’s possible to diagnose all sorts of cancerous conditions and allow normal cells to grow and thrive.
Reasons To Get LEEP Surgery
Your doctor might decide to recommend LEEP surgery for the treatment following the workup of an abnormal Pap smear test. Cervical Dysplasia is an abnormality of cells caused by exposure to the HPV virus. LEEP surgery is commonly used as a treatment for cervical dysplasia.
In some cases, your doctor or lab technician will notice abnormal cells in their precancerous stage, which might develop into cancer years later. Early discovery of such cells is crucial in cancer prevention and treatment, so whenever you’re recommended a loop electrosurgical excision procedure, don’t hesitate to accept it.
Preparations For LEEP Surgery
Preparations for the LEEP procedure are quite simple. Firstly, your doctor will ensure you don’t have any conditions that might cause an obstacle to the surgery or LEEP recovery. For instance, women with pelvic or cervix inflammations might not be suitable candidates for LEEP surgery. In some cases, it might be recommended to do a pregnancy test or exam beforehand in order not to disturb the fetus (it’s still possible to get LEEP during pregnancy, but the timing should be right). Also, the procedure should be performed after your period, ideally one week after the menstruation cycle.
About 24 hours before your LEEP surgery, your provider will ask you to follow these few points:
- avoid intercourse, as well as vaginal creams and douches during the 24-hour period before the treatment
- don’t take medication that thins out blood (any anticoagulants or aspirin)
- bring a pad to wear after the procedure (often, there’s increased vaginal discharge present when the procedure is over)
- half an hour before the procedure, you can take a pain killer like ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- wear comfortable clothing that’s easy to remove and put on
What To Expect During LEEP
A loop electrosurgical excision procedure is relatively quick, lasting only about 10 to 20 minutes, and can be performed in your doctor’s office, depending on the clinic. Once you’re comfortable on the table, your doctor will use a speculum to open your vagina. If you have had a PAP smear done before, you’ll be familiar with the procedure.
Next, your doctor will use a colposcope (a small microscope) to examine your cervix and vagina. This part of the exam is crucial because it allows the specialist to see cells up close. To get a better look at the cells and to identify problematic ones from healthy ones, your doctor might soak your cervix with a liquid similar to vinegar that causes abnormal cells to turn white and be more easily identified. Once the cells are identified, you’ll get a shot that will numb the area and prepare it for LEEP.
Your doctor will insert the procedure tool into your vagina and remove abnormal tissue through the speculum. Depending on the issue, your specialist will take just a bit of tissue for testing or a bit more to treat the problematic area. But thanks to anesthesia, you will only feel slight cramps or pressure in your vagina. In case you feel faint or start to panic, tell your doctor, and they will do everything in their power to make you feel more comfortable.
What to Expect During LEEP Recovery
One of the best things about the loop electrosurgical excision procedure is that you’ll be free to go home right after the surgery. The tool used during the procedure is designed to close blood vessels, so the bleeding will be minimal. Don’t panic if you notice dark discharge or spotting in the upcoming days–it’s just the medicine applied by the doctor leaving the area.
If you listen to your doctor’s LEEP recovery instructions, you’ll feel like new sooner than expected. Here’s what you’ll most likely see on your instruction list to follow for the upcoming two or three weeks post-op:
- no douching
- no intercourse
- no heavy physical activity that might cause your wound to open up
- no heavy lifting and straining
If you follow these for a few weeks, you’ll be more than happy with your LEEP recovery results. When it comes to pain meds, ask for recommendations from your doctor instead of taking anything from your home pharmacy. Certain meds can cause recovery issues, so pay attention to what your doctor says.
What Are The Risks of LEEP
Like any procedure, LEEP also has certain risks that patients must accept. The list of possible complications is not long, and it usually includes issues like:
- bleeding that’s excessive or lasts more than a few days post-op
- allergic reaction to a medication, iodine, latex (if you know about these allergies, inform your health provider)
- scarring in the cervix from the incision
- conception issues (rare)
- higher risk of premature birth or low birth weight (rare)
There are also conditions that can prevent the LEEP procedure and make recovery harder:
- menstrual bleeding
- inflammations of the pelvis
- inflammations of the cervix
Women who are pregnant or might be pregnant should disclose their situation before the procedure. Depending on your condition, there might be other risks, but you can discuss them with your doctor and get accurate and educated advice.
Loop electrosurgical excision procedure is a very beneficial treatment that can potentially save lives. There’s very little pain involved, especially when you keep in mind that this procedure can help identify all sorts of deadly conditions–the return on the investment can be immense. It’s also relatively easy to perform, especially when there’s a quality expert with an educated team involved. After reading this blog, do you feel much more at ease about the procedure? Do your LEEP as soon as possible and enjoy a healthy and happy reproductive future.