Dilation & Curettage

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What is a dilation and curettage?

Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a minor surgical procedure used to remove tissue from the uterus. The uterus is the organ at the top of the vagina. Babies develop in the uterus, and menstrual blood comes from the uterus. Dilation is preformed to open and widen the cervix (entrance to the uterus). Curettage is used to remove tissue from the uterus.

When is it used?

A D&C may be done to:

  • Treat abnormal bleeding from the uterus.
  • Look for the cause of recurrent pelvic pain or unusual enlargement of the uterus.
  • Remove polyps from the uterus.
  • Remove an IUD.
  • Remove pieces of placenta after childbirth.
  • Remove a miscarriage.
  • Remove incomplete, missed, or induced abortions.
  • Check an abnormally shaped uterus.

Examples of alternative treatments are:

  • Having a hysteroscopy (dilating the cervix and using a scope to look at the inside of the uterus and remove parts of the uterine lining).
  • Endometrial biopsy (a sample of the inner layer of the uterine wall is removed using a tiny strawlike tube inserted through the vagina).
  • Treating the problem with medicines, such as hormones.

Another alternative is to choose not to have any procedure, recognizing the possible risks of your condition. You fully discuss these choices with your provider prior to electing to have the procedure.

What are the benefits of this procedure?

Removing the uterine contents and lining may help diagnose and treat your problem. Testing this tissue may help your health care provider understand your condition and suggest further care.

What are the risks associated with this procedure?

As with any procedure, there are risks. Be sure to discuss these risks with your physician prior to the procedure. Additionally there are some risks when you have general anesthesia. Discuss these risks with your health care provider.

A regional anesthetic may not numb the area quite enough and you may feel some minor discomfort. Also, in rare cases, you may have an allergic reaction to the drug used in this type of anesthesia. In most cases regional anesthesia is considered safer than general anesthesia.

How do I prepare for a D&C?

Follow your health care provider's instructions about not smoking before and after the procedure. Smokers heal more slowly after surgery. They are also more likely to have breathing problems during surgery. For this reason, if you are a smoker, you should quit at least 2 weeks before the procedure. It is best to quit 6 to 8 weeks before surgery. Also, your wounds will heal much better if you do not smoke after surgery.

Follow any other instructions your provider gives you. If you are to have general anesthesia, eat a light meal, such as soup or salad, the night before midnight.  Do not eat or drink after midnight.  Do not even drink coffee, tea, or water.

What happens after the procedure?

If there are no complications, you may go home a few hours after the procedure. Expect some bleeding and menstrual-type cramps for the first day or so. Your health care provider may suggest a pain medicine to relieve the discomfort. Women who are still having periods usually have their next period 2 to 6 weeks after the D&C.

Recovery

Plan for your care and recovery after the procedure, especially if you are to have general anesthesia. Arrange to have someone take you home and stay with you for a while after the procedure. Allow for time to rest. Try to find people to help you with your daily duties for 24 hours after the procedure.

Do not place anything inside the vagina until your provider says it is safe. Do not use tampons for a few weeks after the D&C. Follow your provider's instructions about when you can have sexual intercourse. Ask your provider what other steps you should take and when you should come back for a checkup.

When should I call Greenville OB/GYN?

Call our emergency number at any time if:

  • You have heavy bleeding from your uterus (you need more than 1 pad or tampon per hour or the bleeding is heavier than your menstrual flow).
  • You develop a fever over 100 F (37.8 C).
  • You have severe abdominal pain or abdominal pain that continues even after you take acetaminophen or aspirin.
  • You have a foul-smelling discharge from the vagina.

Call during regular office hours if:

  • You have questions about the procedure or its results.
  • You want to make another appointment.

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