What is involved?
Dilatation (or dilation) means “stretching” the entrance of the cervix (neck of the womb). Curettage means “scraping” the lining of the uterus. Dilatation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure used to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the uterus (womb) such as abnormal bleeding, or to help detect cancer or non-cancerous growths of the womb.
If you have had a miscarriage, or if some of your placenta has stayed inside your womb after giving birth, you may need to have a type of D&C called an ERPC (evacuation of retained products of conception). This is to remove any remaining tissue and reduce your risk of developing an infection.
Usually, D&C is done as part of a procedure called a hysteroscopy. A hysteroscopy is an examination of the inside of the womb using a narrow, tube-like telescope called a hysteroscope. For more information, please see the separate treatment summary sheet, hysteroscopy.
D&C is usually done under general anaesthesia, which means you will be asleep throughout the procedure and will not feel any pain. The procedure is normally carried out as a day-case, with no overnight stay in hospital.
Your consultant will explain the risks and benefits of having a D&C, and will also discuss the alternatives to the treatment.
About the procedure
After the anaesthesia has taken effect, your consultant will place an instrument called a speculum into your vagina so that he or she can see the cervix (the neck of your womb). Your cervix will then be gradually opened (dilated) using a series of rods of increasing thickness (dilators).
A D&C is usually done using a hysteroscope. This is an instrument that is passed gently through the cervix and into the womb. The hysteroscope has a small light and camera lens at its tip, which sends pictures from the inside of the womb to a video screen.
Once the cervix has been opened, tissue from the endometrium (the lining of the womb) can be removed, either with an instrument called a curette or with suction. If the D&C is being carried out to help with a diagnosis, the tissue that has been removed will be sent to a laboratory for examination. The results will usually be ready several days later and will be sent in a report to the doctor who recommended the test.
If you have had a miscarriage, the tissue that is removed during the treatment will be disposed of sensitively. Please let your consultant or nurse know if you have particular wishes about disposing of the tissue. The procedure usually lasts about 10 minutes.
Afterwards, you may have some slight abdominal pain, similar to period pain, and there may be some vaginal bleeding for several days. Occasionally, the bleeding and discharge continue for up to a month.
A D&C is a commonly performed and generally safe surgical procedure. For most women, the benefits are greater than the disadvantages. However, like all medical procedures, there is an element of risk.
The main possible complications of any procedure include bleeding during or soon after the procedure, infection, and an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic.
Very occasionally, the womb is perforated or damaged during the D&C. This can lead to bleeding and infection. Most perforations heal without any treatment, but in some cases further surgery may be needed. It is also possible for the cervix to be damaged during the procedure.
The chance of complications depends on the exact type of operation you are having and other factors such as your general health. Ask your consultant to explain how any risks apply to you.
Is the dilatation & curettage procedure available on the NHS?
Dilatation & curettage operations are currently being restricted by the NHS in some areas of the UK and waiting lists are becoming significantly longer. For these reasons many people opt for private treatment.
Why should I consider having dilatation & curettage at a Spire hospital?
Whether you have medical insurance or are paying for your treatment yourself, with Spire Healthcare you will be seen quickly by the consultant-grade doctor of your choice at a time that suits you. You will be treated in a premium private hospital with some of the UK's highest standards of cleanliness and infection control.
To find out more about having a dilatation & curettage operation privately or to get a guide price, simply