Polypectomy is the removal of a polyp. The most common types of polyp removal surgeries include uterine polypectomies and colon polypectomies.

However, a doctor can perform a polypectomy on any area of the body that develops polyps, such as the nose or stomach. A polyp is a growth that begins in the tissue and extends into the hollow space around it.

A polypectomy involves removing polyps that may be causing symptoms, may be cancerous, or require examination.

Fast facts on polypectomies
  • Most polyps are benign growths, which means they do not contain cancer.
  • In most cases, a doctor can remove a polyp while the person is awake.
  • The right technique for polyp removal depends on the size and location of the polyp.
  • Polypectomies are safe, with a low rate of complications.
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The two most common types of polypectomy are uterine polypectomies and colon polypectomies.

A uterine polypectomy is a procedure to remove polyps in the endometrial tissue, the tissue that lines the inside of the uterus. A colon polypectomy involves removing polyps in the colon.

Polyps may also develop in other regions of the body. Some other relatively common sites of polypectomy include:

Polyps grow out of tissue into hollow spaces in the body. For example, colon polyps begin in the tissue of the colon then extend into the hollow space inside it.

Most are benign, but some are cancerous or precancerous. It is not possible to rule out cancer without examining a polyp, so many doctors recommend routine removal to test for cancer.

Are they common?

Polyps are common, and most people do not know they have them. Approximately 20–30% of people in the United States have colon polyps.

Uterine polyps are most common in people aged 40–49 years. About 1–5% are cancerous, with the risk of cancerous uterine polyps being higher in people who are postmenopausal.

How big do they get?

Even when they are not cancerous, some polyps can grow very large. When they do, they may alter blood flow, put pressure on organs, and cause a range of other symptoms.

Preparation for a polypectomy depends on the surgical technique and the location of the polyps.

People undergoing removal of uterine polyps with local anesthesia may need no special preparation.

However, colon polypectomy requires the colon to be empty. People may need to use enemas, laxatives, or both in the 12–24 hours before surgery.

Surgical techniques and what to expect

Many people prefer to be awake for the procedure. Others may want to receive general anesthesia. In this case, the doctor will give the person a sedative, usually through an IV needle. This makes them feel drowsy and relaxed.

Doctors can remove most polyps with an endoscope. This is a tube the doctor inserts into the body, eliminating the need for a large incision. For a uterine polypectomy, a doctor inserts a hysteroscope through the vagina into the cervix and uterus. A camera helps guide the scope to the polyp.

During a colon polypectomy, the doctor inserts the colonoscope through the rectum. As with a uterine polypectomy, a camera helps the doctor locate the polyp.

Doctors use different surgical techniques for removing polyps. The specific removal technique is unlikely to affect the person’s experience of the surgery.

Some options include:

  • Hot snare polypectomy: Hot snare polypectomy (HSP) is the preferred treatment for most polyps and employs a heated snare. A snare is a loop that can grab and remove the polyp. The surgeon may also use electrocautery to burn away any remaining polyp tissue.
  • Cold snare polypectomy: Cole snare polypectomy (CSP) uses a cold snare and is preferred for diminutive (1-5 mm.) polyps.
  • Cold or hot forceps polypectomy: A more outmoded technique uses forceps to pull the polyp loose, to remove small polyps. The surgeon will also use a wire to remove the portion of the polyp that extends into the tissue, or if hot, a procedure called electrocautery to burn away any remaining polyp tissue and prevent bleeding.

A person may feel pressure or pulling during the procedure, but they should feel no pain. Depending on the location of the polyp and other factors, a doctor may give the person pain-blocking medication before, during, or after the procedure.

When polyps are very large, removing them through an incision may be necessary. This procedure is more complicated and typically requires general anesthesia.

Recovery from a colon polypectomy is fairly quick, and most people can get back to their usual diet immediately. People may feel some mild pain, gassiness, or cramping following the procedure, particularly immediately afterward, but these symptoms are typically short-lived.

Taking the pain-relieving medication the doctor prescribes can help.

It is normal to experience some bleeding for a few days following a uterine polypectomy, but call a doctor if the bleeding is very heavy, stops and then starts again, or has a foul odor that could indicate an infection.

After a surgeon removes the polyp, they will send it to a lab for testing. If the polyp is not cancerous, the person may undergo an exam following the removal but will likely need no further treatment.

Most people with polyps do not know they have them.

When they cause symptoms, a doctor may recommend screening tests. In some cases, doctors discover polyps as part of screening for something else. This means that people are more likely to undergo a polypectomy when they also undergo a screening test that can detect polyps.

People who have symptoms related to their polyps, such as pain or bleeding, usually need to have the polyps removed.

Like all surgeries, polypectomies carry some risks. These include:

  • Organ perforation: This occurs when a surgeon punctures the organ they are operating on. This can be fatal, but is rare.
  • Infection: A polypectomy creates a wound, and any wound can become infected. Infection is more likely when people do not follow doctor’s advice after surgery or are already not in optimal health.
  • Excessive bleeding: Sometimes the wound does not properly heal, causing excessive bleeding.
  • Incomplete removal: In some cases, the first procedure may leave some tissue behind, necessitating a second polypectomy.

A polypectomy is a routine procedure that can eliminate symptoms of polyps and test for cancer. As with any procedure, people should weigh the benefits and risks with the help of a doctor.

However, for most polypectomy recipients, the procedure is a minor inconvenience that can offer peace of mind and relief from troublesome symptoms.