Dilation and curettage is a minor surgical procedure used to diagnose and/or treat conditions which 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 using a local anaesthetic with sedation. It usually takes between 10 and 20 minutes to perform.
During the procedure the doctor stretches open (dilates) the cervix and guides a scoop like surgical instrument (a curette) into the uterus. The curette is used to scrape tissue from the wall of the uterus. Sometimes vacuum aspiration or low-pressure suction may be used as well.
Dilation and curettage (D&C) can be used to:
- Remove polyps from the uterus
- Remove an IUD
- Remove pieces of placenta after childbirth
- Remove an incomplete miscarriage.
A D&C can also be used to help diagnose problems causing:
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Abnormal bleeding from the uterus
- Pelvic pain
- Unusual shape or enlargement of the uterus.
If the D&C is being performed for diagnostic purposes, a sample of the uterine tissue will be sent to a laboratory for analysis.
As with any surgical procedure the woman 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 (usually two to four hours). 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 usually recommended that the person does not drive for 24 hours after the procedure and taking one or two days off work is usually suggested. It is usually recommended that sexual intercourse and the use of tampons are avoided for approximately two weeks to allow the cervix and uterus time to heal.
It is common to experience some cramping and period-like pain after the procedure. There may also be some vaginal bleeding. These symptoms may last for a few days. Pain medication such as paracetamol should help to ease discomfort.
It is important to contact a doctor after the procedure if:
- You develop a temperature
- Bleeding is heavy, contains large clots or lasts longer than 10 minutes
- You have severe abdominal cramps.
Anderson, K.N., Anderson, L.E. & Glanze, W.D. (Eds.) (2006) Mosby’s Medical, Nursing and Allied Health Dictionary (6th ed.) St. Louis: The C.V. Mosby Company.
Gynaecology Services (2011) Hysteroscopy with D&C. National Women’s Hospital Gynaecology Service, Pamphlet. Auckland.
Women’s Health Advisor (2006) Dilation and Curettage (D&C). Clinical Reference Systems. Health and Wellness Resource Centre. McKesson Health Solutions.
Last Reviewed – 12 September 2013