What Is a Polypectomy?

What to expect when undergoing this test

Polypectomy is a minimally invasive procedure in which healthcare providers remove abnormal growths of tissue, called polyps, from inside your colon. In addition to being part of a routine colonoscopy and a therapeutic procedure, a polypectomy is used as a means to assess whether a growth is cancerous, precancerous, or noncancerous.

Removing a polyp illustration

Purpose of Test

You may need a polypectomy if you have a polyp inside your colon, which can be discovered during a colonoscopy—a routine exam recommended for adults 45 years of age or older to check for any growths that may indicate cancer. A polyp may also be detected during a non-invasive imaging test, such as a computed tomography (CT) scan, ultrasound, or a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan when you are being evaluated for weight loss, bleeding, or other symptoms.

A polypectomy is performed whenever a polyp that needs to be removed is found, and the procedure is usually done during the very colonoscopy that reveals one. A polyp remaining inside the colon can bleed, grow, or become cancerous.

Often, when a polyp is removed, it is examined under a microscope like a biopsy, so that you and your healthcare provider will know if it was cancerous and whether there is any evidence that any remaining tissue also needs removal.

Risks and Contraindications

A polypectomy can cause bleeding, a perforation, or an infection. If you need a polypectomy and take blood thinner, it is almost always recommended to discontinue them prior to the procedure.

If you have an infection of your gastrointestinal system, a polypectomy can trigger the spread of infection, so it is likely that your healthcare provider will want you to wait until after the infection has resolved before you have the procedure.

A perforation, in which the bowel is cut, is a rare complication of polypectomy. If this happens, you will need emergency surgery to repair the lacerated colon.

Before the Procedure

Your healthcare provider will discuss polypectomy when they are explaining your routine colonoscopy.

If your polyp is discovered on an imaging examination, such as a CT scan, your healthcare provider will explain the process of a colonoscopy with a polypectomy when discussing your test results.


A polypectomy takes about 20 minutes, but removing several polyps will take longer. You will be given medication that makes you a bit sleepy, and some people continue to feel groggy from the medication until after a good night's sleep, so you should be prepared to take it easy for the rest of the day after your procedure.


A polypectomy is generally done in a gastrointestinal (GI) procedure suite that is equipped with a colonoscope, as well as a screen that your healthcare provider uses to visualize the images.

What to Wear

You can dress comfortably. You will be asked to undress from the waist down and to wear a gown throughout your procedure.

Food and Drink

To prepare a polypectomy, you will be asked to undergo thorough bowel preparation a day or two in advance to ensure that your colon is clear and free of any visual obstruction. This can involve the use of a laxative, enema, and a clear food diet. A clear fluid diet includes clear broths, gelatin, and juice (without pulp).

Cost and Health Insurance

In general, most health plans cover colonoscopy and polypectomy, but you may need pre-authorization. If you are paying for the procedure out of pocket, the cost will be in the range of $1500 to several thousand dollars.

What to Bring

You should be sure to have someone who can drive you home after the procedure, as you may be too groggy to drive safely.

During the Procedure

Your polypectomy will be performed by a gastroenterologist, who is a healthcare provider specialized in diseases of the gastrointestinal system. You will also have either a nurse anesthetist or an anesthesiologist (a doctor specialized in sedation) helping with the procedure.


On the day of the procedure, you will have to sign in and fill out forms consenting to the procedure and payment.

The anesthesiologist or the nurse anesthetist will ask if you have any allergies or prior adverse reactions to anesthesia. You will be given a medication to relax you and to make you sleepy, either by mouth or intravenously (IV). You will most likely remain awake during the procedure, which can take up to an hour.

Once you are prepped and dressed in a hospital gown, you will be laid on your side on the examining table with your knees pulled toward your chest.

Throughout the Procedure

When ready, the healthcare provider will insert a long, flexible colonoscope, which is connected to a camera, into your rectum. You may feel a slight pressure, but it shouldn't hurt. Depending on the room setup, you may be able to see the screen that your healthcare provider is viewing.

Once your healthcare provider locates a polyp, you will have it removed with one of two different types of polypectomies:

  • Snare polypectomy is a technique in which the healthcare provider loops a thin wire (snare) around the base of the polyp and uses heat to simultaneously cut off the growth and cauterize (stop bleeding) the wound.
  • Piece-meal polypectomy is used to remove large growths that would otherwise be removed by surgery. If a person is unable to undergo bowel surgery, this technique removes the growth piece by piece during the course of a colonoscopic procedure. It's rare and reserved only for the biggest polyps, as most polyps are very tiny and can be removed quickly with a variety of techniques.

You may have a local anesthetic injected in the area to prevent pain.

The growths themselves can be small and uncomplicated or they may be large pedunculated polyps that grow on stalks like a mushroom. If you have bleeding, your healthcare provider may need to place a suture to stop the bleeding.


After your procedure, your healthcare provider will remove the colonoscope and give you a chance to change and rest. The medical staff will give you instructions explaining what to expect and the symptoms to look out for.

It is not unusual to feel groggy and unsteady on your feet. As such, it is advised that a friend or family member drive you home.

The polyps that were removed are sent to a pathology lab to assess whether there is any sign of colon cancer. Results are usually available within a few weeks.

After the Procedure

While there is usually little pain following the removal of a smaller polyp, pain medication may be prescribed if the removal has been extensive or if your pain is severe. If you did not leave with a prescription but are experiencing pain, call your healthcare provider's office to discuss your symptoms.

The risks of polypectomy are similar to those of the colonoscopy and can include rectal bleeding and perforation of the bowel. While these complications are considered rare, you should contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience any of the following adverse symptoms:

  • Fever or chills
  • Heavy bleeding (more than a teaspoon at a time)
  • Severe abdominal pain or bloating
  • Vomiting
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting

Interpreting Results

The results of a polypectomy include a report about the type of lesion that was removed, as well as whether the whole lesion was removed or not. The report will also describe whether there were any cancerous or precancerous cells, or whether the tissue was completely normal.

With this, the report will include a description of whether the margins (the edges of the lesion) were normal or whether they contained cancerous or precancerous cells. When there are areas of concern, normal margins suggest that the concerning areas were fully removed, while margins that contain worrisome cells suggest that the cancerous or precancerous lesions were not fully removed.


A polypectomy does not need to be regularly repeated. However, if there are areas of concern that were not fully removed, your healthcare provider may schedule you for another procedure to remove remaining lesions or may order follow-up imaging studies.

If there was no evidence of cancer noted on your lab reports, you will need to continue to have routine colonoscopies.

A Word From Verywell

A polypectomy can cause concern because it is a procedure, not a simply screening test. While a polyp certainly is something that requires attention, the vast majority of polyps are benign and, when removed in a timely manner, do not pose a danger to your health.

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12 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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