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Southern Cross Medical Library

The purpose of the Southern Cross Medical Library is to provide information of a general nature to help you better understand certain medical conditions. Always seek specific medical advice for treatment appropriate to you. This information is not intended to relate specifically to insurance or healthcare services provided by Southern Cross. For more articles go to the Medical Library index page.

Dilation and curettage

Dilation and curettage (D&C), also referred to as Evacuation of the Uterus, is a minor surgical procedure used to diagnose and treat conditions that affect the inside of the uterus. 
 
The procedure may be performed as a day-stay procedure and can be performed under a general anaesthetic or a local anaesthetic with sedation. 
 
During the procedure, the doctor stretches open (dilates) the cervix and guides a thin scoop-like surgical instrument (a curette) or a suction device into the uterus and removes uterine tissue.

D&C can be used to:

  • Remove polyps (abnormal tissue growths) from the uterus
  • Remove an Intra Uterine Device (IUD)
  • Remove retained pieces of placenta after childbirth
  • Remove pregnancy tissue following a non-viable pregnancy (i.e. missed or incomplete miscarriage) or an undesired pregnancy (i.e. surgical abortion).

D&C can also be used to help diagnose uterine conditions causing:

  • Heavy menstrual bleeding
  • Abnormal bleeding from the uterus
  • Pelvic pain
  • Unusual shape or enlargement of the uterus.

D&C may be performed in combination with, or instead of, another procedure known as a hysteroscopy, in which a slender device tipped with a light and camera is used to view the inside of the uterus and make a diagnosis.

As with any surgical procedure, the patient will be asked to sign a consent form before undergoing the procedure. This is an ideal opportunity to discuss with the doctor the risks and benefits of the procedure and to have any questions about the procedure answered.

After the procedure

After the procedure, vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure and temperature will be monitored for a period of time. If no problems occur during this time, the patient is discharged and sent home.

Recovery and activity guidelines will be given prior to discharge from hospital.

It is common to experience some cramping and period-like pain after the procedure. There may also be some spotting or light vaginal bleeding. These symptoms may last for a few days. Medication may be prescribed to help ease discomfort.

It is important to contact your doctor after the procedure if:

  • A fever over 38°C develops
  • Bleeding is heavy, contains large clots or requires you to change pads every hour or more frequently
  • There is a foul-smelling discharge from the vagina
  • Severe abdominal cramps develop. 

References

American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (2020). Dilation and curettage (D&C) (Web Page). Washington, DC: American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. https://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Dilation-and-Curettage-DandC [Accessed: 30/06/21]
Mayo Clinic (2019). Dilation and curettage (D&C) (Web Page). Rochester, MN: Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dilation-and-curettage/about/pac-20384910 [Accessed: 30/06/21]
O’Toole, M.T. (Ed.) (2017). Dilation and curettage (D&C). Mosby’s Dictionary of Medicine, Nursing & Health Professions (10th ed.). St Louis, MO: Elsevier.
 
Last Reviewed: June 2021

Go to our Medical Library Index Page to find information on other medical conditions.