Dilation and curettage (D&C)
Dilation and curettage (D&C)
Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure in which your doctor removes tissue from the inside of your uterus. Dilation and curettage is used to diagnose or treat various uterine conditions — such as heavy bleeding — or to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage or abortion.
In a dilation and curettage, which is sometimes spelled "dilatation and curettage," your doctor dilates, or opens, your cervix. Your cervix is the lower part of your uterus that separates your vagina and uterus. A surgical instrument called a curette is then inserted into your uterus to remove tissue. Curettes used in a dilation and curettage can be sharp or can use suction.
Why it's done
A D&C may be used to either diagnose or treat a uterine condition.
To diagnose a condition
Your doctor will send the tissue sample to a lab for tests, which may check for:
To treat a condition
A D&C is often performed along with another procedure called a hysteroscopy. In a hysteroscopy, a slim instrument with a light and camera on the end is inserted into your uterus. This allows your doctor to see your endometrium on a screen, to take samples of any areas that look abnormal, and to make sure that no small polyps are missed.
Dilation and curettage is usually very safe, and complications are rare. However, there are risks. These include:
Contact your doctor if you experience any of the following:
How you prepare
Dilation and curettage is performed in a hospital, clinic or your doctor's office, and it's usually done as an outpatient procedure. You'll likely spend a few hours after the procedure at the facility where it's done. Don't eat or drink anything before a D&C, and arrange for someone to help you get home because the residual effects of the anesthesia from the procedure may make you drowsy. You should be able to resume your normal activities within a day or two.
In some cases, your doctor may want to start dilating your cervix a few hours or even a day before your procedure to ensure that your cervix is opened gradually. This is usually done when your cervix needs to be dilated more than in a standard D&C, such as during pregnancy terminations or with certain types of hysteroscopy. In these instances, your doctor can dilate your cervix with medication that softens the cervix or by inserting a slender rod called a laminaria into your cervix. The laminaria gradually expands by absorbing the fluid in your cervix, causing your cervix to open.
What you can expect
During the procedure
During the procedure, you lie on your back with your legs in stirrups. Your doctor inserts a speculum into your vagina, as during a pelvic exam, in order to see your cervix. Your doctor then slowly dilates your cervix by inserting a series of thicker and thicker rods into your cervix until it's adequately opened, usually to between 6 and 9 millimeters in diameter. Your doctor then inserts the curette and begins removing tissue. Because you're either unconscious or sedated during this, you shouldn't feel any discomfort. A D&C usually takes about 15 to 30 minutes.
After the procedure
If you had general anesthesia, you may:
If you received general anesthesia or IV sedation, you may be drowsy for several hours.
Other normal side effects of a D&C may last a few days and include:
Cramping can be treated with medication like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin, others).
It's important not to put anything in your vagina until your cervix returns to its normal size. This is because bacteria can enter your uterus while your cervix is dilated and cause an infection. Ask your doctor when you can resume sexual activity or use tampons again.
If you had a D&C because of a miscarriage, talk with your doctor about when it's safe to begin trying to become pregnant again.
Your uterus must build a new lining after a D&C, so your next period may not come on time.
Dilation and curettage
In a dilation and curettage procedure (D&C), your doctor inserts a series of rods (dilators) of increasing thickness to open (dilate) your cervix and allow access to your uterus. Then your doctor ...
Your doctor will make an appointment with you soon after the D&C to discuss the results of tissue tests or of the procedure itself.
Last Updated: 2011-01-15
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