Surgical Procedures: Dilation and Curettage
What is a Dilation and Curettage (D&C)?
A dilation and curettage (D&C) is a surgical procedure where the uterine cervix is dilated (expanded to be bigger) so that tissue can be removed from the uterus. A D&C can be done to diagnose and treat many types of uterine conditions.
When used to diagnose an issue, a D&C can look for:
- Abnormal uterine bleeding.
- Post-menopausal bleeding.
- Changes in endometrial cells.
- Uterine polyps.
- Uterine cancer.
- Endometrial hyperplasia.
When used as a treatment, a D&C is used to treat:
- A molar pregnancy.
- Excessive (too much) post-partum bleeding.
- Benign (non-cancerous) polyps.
- Remaining parts of conception after a miscarriage or abortion.
How is it done?
A series of rods will be inserted through the cervical opening, or you will be given medication to dilate. Once the cervix is dilated, tissue from your uterus will be removed with a tool called a curette (long, thin rod with a scoop or loop on the end) or with a suction pump. The tissue that is removed is then sent to a lab to be looked at under a microscope.
At times a D&C may be done with a hysteroscopy. A hysteroscopy is a procedure where a lighted camera is inserted into the uterus to look at the lining of the uterus.
What are the risks of having a dilation and curettage?
As with any surgery, there are risks and possible side effects. These can be:
- Perforation (puncturing or piercing a hole) of the uterus.
- Damage to the cervix.
- Uterine wall scar tissue (called Asherman Syndrome).
- Infection and/or bleeding.
What is recovery like?
Recovery from a D&C may take about 1-2 days. It is normal to have cramping, spotting and light vaginal bleeding. Your next period may be late due to the need for the uterus to thicken and build a new lining.
Cramping can be relieved with over-the-counter ibuprofen, or medications recommended by your healthcare team. Always ask your provider before taking any new medications.
You will need pelvic rest until given the okay from your healthcare team. This means that you should not put anything in the vagina (tampons, vaginal intercourse, douche). Doing so can raise your risk for infection.
When should I call my provider?
Call your provider if you have:
- Heavy vaginal bleeding and/or foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
- Light vaginal bleeding lasting more than two weeks.
- Cramps that last longer than 48 hours.
- Fever. Your care team will tell you at what temperature they should be called.
- Abdominal (belly) pain.
What will I need at home?
- Sanitary pads for vaginal bleeding/discharge.
- Thermometer to check for fever, which can be a sign of infection. Your care team will tell you at what temperature they should be called.
Talk with your provider about why you may need a dilation and curettage. If you have any questions about recovery or risks, be sure to ask your care team.
American Cancer Society. (2019). Tests for endometrial cancer. Retrieved from https://www.cancer.org/cancer/endometrial-cancer/detection-diagnosis-staging/how-diagnosed.html
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2020). Dilation and Curettage. Retrieved from https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/dilation-and-curettage