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, which separates 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.
To learn more about surgical methods to treat abnormal cell changes, see the topic Abnormal Pap Test.
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 point to 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).
LEEP may be used to treat large, external warts and warts on the cervix.
- LEEP may be as effective as other surgeries to remove warts, but scarring may occur. More research is needed to find out how well LEEP works.1
- During LEEP, only a small amount of normal tissue is removed at the edges of the wart tissue.
Bleeding is the most common side effect. But typically 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.
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) to help you prepare for this surgery.
Bonnez W, Reichman RC (2010). Papillomaviruses. In GL Mandell et al., eds., Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, 7th ed., vol. 2, pp. 2035–2049. Philadelphia: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier.
By Healthwise Staff Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology Last Revised June 21, 2012