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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) 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 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 thin scoop-like surgical instrument (a curette) into the uterus. The curette is used to scrape tissue from the wall of the uterus (curettage). Sometimes vacuum aspiration or low-pressure suction may be used as well.

D&C can be used to: 

  • Remove polyps from the uterus
  • Remove an IUD
  • Remove pieces of placenta after childbirth
  • Remove an incomplete miscarriage.

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.

If the D&C is being performed for diagnostic purposes, a sample of the uterine tissue will be sent to a laboratory to check for polyps, cancer, and thickening of the lining of the uterus (which is a pre-cancerous condition). 

D&C may be performed in combination with 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.

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 2–4 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 spotting or light vaginal bleeding. These symptoms may last for a few days. Pain medication such as paracetamol or ibuprofen should help to ease discomfort.

It is important to contact a doctor after the procedure if: 
A fever develops
Bleeding is heavy, contains large clots or lasts longer than 10 minutes
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: 20/11/20]
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: 20/11/20]
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: November 2020

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