Surgical Removal of Genital Warts by Excision
British Columbia Specific Information
Genital warts are a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by infection from the human papillomavirus (HPV). Genital warts can be treated using topical medication or freezing. These treatments do not get rid of the HPV infection; a person who has been treated may still pass it on, even if the warts are no longer visible. For information about genital warts and HPV, see HealthLinkBC File #101a Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Infection and Genital Warts. Please speak with your health care provider to discuss the best treatment option for you.
You may also be interested in exploring HPV vaccination. Health Canada approves the HPV vaccines Cervarix® (HPV2) and Gardasil® (HPV4) for use in women up to the age of 45, and Gardasil® for men ages 9 and older. Both vaccines protect against infection by HPV types that cause most cases of cervical cancer and several less common cancers. Gardasil® also protects against infection by the HPV types that cause most cases of genital warts. The vaccines prevent HPV infection but do not get rid of the infection once it has occurred. For more information on the HPV vaccines, see HealthLinkBC File #101b Human Papillomavirus (HPV) Vaccines.
For more information on STIs, sexual health information, where to get tested and other sexual health services in your area, visit SmartSexResource.
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 of surgery are:
- 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.
Current as of: May 22, 2015
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