What Is a Polypectomy? Everything to Know

Medically Reviewed By Megan Soliman, MD
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A polypectomy is a procedure for the removal of growths called polyps. There are different types of polypectomy depending on the location of the polyps. The size of the polyps can also determine the type of polypectomy. In most cases, a polypectomy involves a surgeon using an endoscopy procedure to remove the polyps.

This article looks in more detail at the types of polypectomy procedures. It also includes information about when you may need a polypectomy and what to expect before, during, and after the procedure.

What are the types of polypectomy procedures?

There is an endoscope against a blue background.
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There are different types of polyps and polypectomy procedures. The type of procedure you will require may depend on the size and location of the polyps.

Types of polypectomy and the polyps they can remove include:

  • hysteroscopy, which involves placing a small camera inside the uterus before removing uterine polyps
  • colon polypectomy, which is the removal of colon polypsusually during colonoscopy or sigmoidoscopy
  • cold snare polypectomy and hot snare polypectomy for the removal of colorectal polyps that are 4–10 millimeters in size
  • endoscopic nasal polypectomy to remove nasal polyps
  • endoscopic mucosal resection (EMR)
  • endoscopic submucosal dissection (ESD)
  • endoscopic full-thickness resection (EFTR)

You may require EMR, ESD, or EFTR for larger polyps.

In rare cases, more intensive surgery that removes part of the affected organ or body part may be necessary. This may be the case if:

  • the polyp is very large
  • there are some cell changes in the polyp
  • there are lots of polyps

What is the purpose of a polypectomy?

Polyps are growths of tissue that appear from the mucous membrane. Hyperplastic polyps are typically benign.

However, some polyps, known as adenoma polyps, may become cancerous. Due to this, it is important to consider undergoing polyp removal to reduce this risk.

Your doctor will be able to explain the type of polyps you have and why they recommend a polypectomy.

Learn more about adenomas.

Who might need a polypectomy?

Anybody can get polyps. More than 40% of people over the age of 50 years have precancerous colon polyps.

Children can also develop these growths. Polyps in the colon or large intestine affect about 1–2% of children, occurring most frequently in those ages 2–6 years. More than 95% of these polyps are hamartomas or juvenile polyps.

As polyps may not cause any symptoms, you should contact your doctor if you have concerns about polyps.

Learn more about colon polyps.

What happens during a polypectomy?

A polypectomy for small polyps typically involves using biopsy forceps to snip off small pieces of tissue that make up the polyp.

For larger polyps, your surgeon may need to use a snare — a medical device with a loop on the end of it — to burn the base of the polyp with an electrical current.

You will typically receive an anesthetic before your procedure, and a healthcare professional may deliver a submucosal injection. The submucosal fluid makes the removal of polyps easier by separating them from the muscular layer.

How do I prepare for a polypectomy?

Depending on the type of polypectomy, you may need to avoid eating or drinking before your procedure. If this is the case, your doctor or surgeon will be able to advise you on when you should have your last meal.

If you are booked in for a colon polypectomy, you may also need to take a laxative to help empty your bowels.

Your doctor or surgeon will be able to explain any specific requirements to you beforehand. You should also contact them with any questions you may have in advance so that you can be fully informed about what to expect.

How long does it take to recover from a polypectomy?

You will likely be able to go home the same day as your procedure. However, the sedation may take up to 24 hours to fully wear off, so it is important to arrange for somebody to collect you after your procedure.

During recovery, your doctor may recommend that you do not take blood thinning or anti-inflammatory drugs. If this is the case, they will give you a specific length of time to avoid these medications

You may also experience rectal bleeding for up to 2 weeks after a colonoscopy or vaginal bleeding for a few days following a cervical polypectomy. It is important to contact your doctor if bleeding persists after this time or if it is heavy.

Depending on the type of polyp and the results of your procedure, you may need follow-up tests within 1–5 years.

What are the benefits of a polypectomy?

Following the removal of the polyps by polypectomy, the healthcare team can send a sample to a laboratory for analysis. This is important as laboratory tests will be able to identify whether there are any risks of the polyp regrowing or any cancerous changes.

Additionally, if a polyp remains where it is, it may become cancerous. For example, a bowel polyp may develop into bowel cancer. A polypectomy can help reduce this risk.

Depending on the laboratory results, you may require further procedures following a polypectomy. Your doctor will be able to confirm this once they receive the results back from the laboratory. This can take about 3–4 weeks.

Learn how to recognize the symptoms of bowel cancer.

Are there any complications of a polypectomy?

A polypectomy is generally a safe procedure.

However, there is the possibility of complications. These include:

  • bleeding, which can occur in 1 in 50 polypectomy procedures for large or complex polyps
  • perforation of the colon if you have a polypectomy for colon polyps, particularly on the right side of the bowel
  • incomplete removal of the polyps

Your risk of bleeding will be higher if you have polyps with stalks, as each stalk contains a large blood vessel.

In some cases, one or more of the following symptoms can occur after a polypectomy:

You should seek medical advice if you experience any of these symptoms.

When should I contact a doctor?

It is advisable to contact a doctor if you have concerns about polyps, particularly if you are over the age of 50 years. More than 40% of people in this age group have precancerous polyps in the colon.

You should also contact your doctor if you are booked in for a polypectomy procedure and have questions. Your doctor will be able to answer these and provide you with information about your likely recovery time.

Are there any alternatives to a polypectomy?

Surgery may be an alternative to a polypectomy. A doctor may recommend surgery to remove polyps if there are lots of polyps or a very large polyp.

In some cases, removal of the polyp may not be necessary. However, leaving it in place carries the risk of it becoming cancerous.

The doctor will be able to discuss all of your options with you and answer any questions you may have. They will also be able to weigh the risks of surgical removal against those of leaving the polyp alone.

Learn more

Use the links below to access more information about polyps and their removal.

Summary

A polypectomy is a procedure for removing polyps. Polyps are growths of tissue that can appear in places such as the colon, uterus, or nasal passage.

You will usually require an endoscopy to remove polyps. For larger polyps, you may require a hot or cold snare. In rare cases, such as with very large or numerous polyps, you may need surgery.

It is best to contact a doctor if you have concerns about polyps. They will explain what tests they can arrange and what type of polypectomy procedures they will recommend if polyps are present.

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Medical Reviewer: Megan Soliman, MD
Last Review Date: 2022 Aug 5
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