Loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) for genital warts

Surgery Overview

The loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) uses a thin, low-voltage electrified wire loop to remove genital warts by heating the margin of the area to be removed, separating the wart from the skin.

LEEP is done in a doctor's office, clinic, or hospital on an outpatient basis. A local anesthetic is injected to numb the area.

For women, abnormal cervical cell changes caused by HPV will be treated differently than genital warts caused by HPV. Your doctor may recommend certain types of surgery, such as LEEP. For more information about surgical methods to treat abnormal cell changes, see the topic Abnormal Pap Test.

What To Expect After Surgery

Recovery time depends on the location and number of warts removed. Most people will be able to return to normal activities within 1 to 3 days after LEEP.

For men and women who have had LEEP, call your doctor if you have any of the following:

  • Bleeding that lasts longer than 1 week
  • A fever
  • Severe pain
  • Bad-smelling or yellowish discharge, which may indicate an infection

Avoid sexual intercourse until the treated area heals and the soreness is gone (usually 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the size of the area treated).

Why It Is Done

LEEP may be used to treat large, external warts and warts on the cervix.

How Well It Works

  • In one study, LEEP removed warts in 86% of people. But, warts may return after LEEP treatment.1
  • During LEEP, only a small amount of normal tissue is removed at the edges of the wart tissue.

Risks

Bleeding is the most common side effect, but generally LEEP causes less blood loss than laser treatment.

Scarring of the penis is a possible side effect that can result in problems with urination or erection.

Infection does not occur often and can be treated with antibiotics.

What To Think About

LEEP works best with large, external warts or warts on the cervix.

Treating genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed. A person treated for genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms may help reduce the risk of HPV infection.

The benefits and effectiveness of each type of treatment need to be compared with the side effects and cost. Discuss this with your doctor.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

References

Citations

  1. Wiley DJ, et al. (2002). External genital warts: Diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 35(Suppl 2): S210–S224.

Last Updated: July 2, 2008

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