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Surgical Removal of Genital Warts by Excision

British Columbia Specific Information

Human Papillomavirus (HPV) is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections (STIs). HPV can cause genital warts and cancers of the anus, cervix, mouth and throat, penis, vagina, and vulva. The HPV vaccines protect against infection from certain types of HPV, however, they do not get rid of the infection once it has occurred.

Health Canada has approved 2 HPV vaccines:

  • Cervarix® (HPV2)
  • Gardasil®9 (HPV9)

To determine if you are eligible to receive the free vaccine, see HealthLinkBC File #101b Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines, visit ImmunizeBC – HPV (Human Papillomavirus), or speak with a public health nurse at your local public health unit. Those not eligible for the free HPV vaccine can purchase it at most pharmacies and travel clinics and at some sexual health clinics.

To learn more about HPV infection, see HealthLinkBC File #101a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection and Genital Warts. For more information on STIs, sexual health information, where to get tested and other sexual health services in your area, visit SmartSexResource.

Surgery Overview

Visible genital warts on the penis or vagina or around the anus are removed by excision, which means cutting the warts off with a surgical knife (scalpel). Warts on the cervix may be removed by laser or loop electrosurgical excision (LEEP).

The procedure is usually done in a doctor's office or clinic or an outpatient surgery centre. You receive medicine that numbs the area around the warts (local anesthetic). Stitches (sutures) usually close the incisions.

For women, abnormal cervical cell changes caused by HPV will be managed differently than genital warts caused by HPV. Your doctor may recommend certain types of surgery, such as surgical excision. To learn more 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.
  • Healing takes 2 to 4 weeks.
  • Scarring may occur.

For men and women who have had genital warts removed, call your doctor for 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 soreness is gone (usually 1 to 3 weeks, depending on the size of the area treated).

Why It Is Done

Surgery is used to remove warts that return after other treatments. It also may be used when warts are widespread. A single treatment may be all that is needed.

How Well It Works

Surgery may be an effective treatment. But surgery may cause more pain than other treatments.footnote 1

Risks

Risks of surgery are:

  • Bleeding.
  • Infection. You may receive antibiotics at the time of the procedure, to reduce the risk of infection.
  • Pain. You may need medicine for several days after the procedure.

What To Think About

Treating genital warts does not cure infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts. 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, but they do not protect the entire genital area against skin-to-skin contact.

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

References

Citations

  1. Buck HW (2010). Warts (genital), search date December 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Credits

Current as of:
February 26, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Sarah Marshall MD - Family Medicine
Thomas M. Bailey MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Kevin C. Kiley MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology