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Complications of the LEEP Procedure

written by: Jessica Bello • edited by: BStone • updated: 1/16/2011

The LEEP procedure is normally considered to be safe. Occasionally, complications occur that require medical follow-up treatment. Learn more about the possible LEEP procedure complications.

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    If you have had an abnormal PAP-test result and a colposcopy biopsy has confirmed abnormal changes in the cervix, your doctor may suggest you undergo a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP). This is a way to test and treat abnormal cell growth on the surface tissue of the cervix. Most women do not experience any serious side effects, but sometimes more serious LEEP procedure complications occur.

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    Fainting Sensation

    Light-headed or fainting sensations might occur during or straight after the LEEP procedure. This is due to irritation of the nerve branches in the cervix. This is less likely to occur if the patient has had a good night's sleep prior to the LEEP procedure.

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    Changes in the Cerivix

    One of the possible LEEP procedure complications are changes or scarring in the cervix from removal of the tissue. The cervical opening leading into the uterus may be smaller. This might make it more difficult to evaluate the tissue during future PAP-tests.

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    Heavy Bleeding

    One of the most common complications of the LEEP procedure is heavy bleeding and this usually occurs within the first three weeks. The bleeding might start immediately or be delayed for one to two weeks. Women who experience heavy bleeding accompanied by clots, should seek advise immediately. If more than one sanitary pad is needed per hour, emergency care is also needed.The patient might need to have a paste applied in order to stop the bleeding.

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    Infection

    Contracting an infection is always a risk following surgery. Infection can occur in the cervical tissue or in the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. If you experience fever, smelly vaginal discharge or pelvic pain, contact the provider who performed the procedure. If infection occurs, it is likely that your doctor will prescribe you some antibiotics.

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    Future Pregnancy Problems

    Occasionally the LEEP procedure can make it more difficult to become pregnant in the future, as the procedure can affect the cervical mucus. Depending on how much tissue is removed, it can also weaken the cervix which can make it difficult carrying a baby to term. It might also lead to miscarriage as the cervix can open during the pregnancy.

    This complication, however, is very rare and there is a treatment for this called “incompetent cervix”. A stitch can be placed in the cervix to prevent it to dilate prematurely. The stitch is removed one month before the woman’s due date.

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    When to call the doctor

    Call your clinic immediately if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms:

    • Bleeding that is heavier than the menstrual period
    • Very bad-smelling yellowish discharge
    • Fever or chills
    • Severe abdominal pain