Dilatation (dilation) is the "stretching" of the entrance of the cervix (the neck of the womb). Curettage refers to the "scraping" of the lining of the uterus (womb). Dilatation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure used to diagnose and treat conditions affecting the womb, to detect growths and to remove remaining tissue after a miscarriage or birth.
A dilatation and curettage (D&C) procedure can be used to diagnose and treat conditions such as abnormal bleeding, or to detect cancerous and benign 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 evacuation of retained products of conception (ERPC). This is to remove any remaining tissue and reduce your risk of developing an infection. 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.
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You will usually be given a general anaesthesia for dilatation and curettage (D&C), which means you'll be asleep throughout the procedure and will not feel any pain. The operation typically lasts about 10 minutes.
Usually, D&C is done as part of a procedure called a hysteroscopy, which is an examination of the inside of the womb using a narrow, tube-like telescope called a hysteroscope. This slim telescope is carefully passed through your vagina and cervix into your womb.
During an operation, your consultant will place an instrument called a speculum into your vagina so they can see your cervix. Your cervix will be gradually opened (dilated) using a series of rods of increasing thickness (dilators).
The hysteroscope will be passed gently through your cervix into your womb. It has a small light and camera lens at its tip, which sends pictures from the inside of your womb to a video screen.
Once your cervix has been opened, tissue from the endometrium (the lining of your womb) can be removed, either with an instrument called a curette or with suction. 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 the disposal of this tissue.
If the procedure is being carried out to help with a diagnosis, the tissue that is removed will be sent to a laboratory for examination.
A dilatation and curettage (D&C) operation is normally carried out as a day case, so you won't need to stay overnight in hospital.
After this, you will be taken to your room or comfortable area where you can rest and recuperate until we feel you’re ready to go home.
After the procedure, you may have some slight abdominal pain, similar to period pain. If you need them, continue taking painkillers as advised by the hospital.
We will provide you with a supply of all the medicines your consultant feels you need to take home with you after you've left hospital, up to 14 days. This may be at an additional cost to some patients.
As well as some abdominal pain, you may experience some vaginal bleeding for several days. Occasionally, the bleeding and discharge continues for up to a month. Follow your consultant’s advice about returning to your usual activities. You will probably be able to go back to work after a couple of days, but this depends on the type of job you do.
If you are pre-menopausal, it is not unusual to spot until your next period, which may be earlier or later than usual. Your womb will be more at risk of infection until your cervix has returned to its normal size. For this reason, you should avoid wearing tampons for your first period after the operation.
Once you’re ready to be discharged from hospital, you’ll need to arrange a taxi, friend or family member to take you home as you won’t be able to drive.
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. Your nurse will also make a follow–up appointment with your consultant. This is usually one to two weeks after the treatment.
Most women experience no problems following a D&C but as with all medical treatments complications can occur. Very occasionally, the womb is perforated or damaged during a D&C operation. 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. If you experience any of these symptoms, call us straight away.
We will talk to you about the possible risks and complications of having this procedure and how they apply to you.
But everybody is different. If you have any questions or concerns, we're here to help.
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The treatment described on this page may be adapted to meet your individual needs, so it's important to follow your healthcare professional's advice and raise any questions that you may have with them.