Dilation is a procedure to open and widen the cervix. The cervix is the entrance to the uterus. Curettage is the removal of the lining of the uterus by scraping. The lining is known as the endometrium. The 2 procedures are done together and are often referred to as a D&C.
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Reasons for Procedure
A D&C is usually done to determine what condition is causing abnormal bleeding. Some conditions that may cause abnormal bleeding are:
Sometimes a D&C is done to stop the bleeding, rather than to diagnose why you are bleeding. For example, this procedure may be done to remove products of conception or to treat bleeding that has not responded to other methods.
A D&C is not done if you have an infection, such as one that affects the uterus or fallopian tubes.
Complications are rare. But no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a D&C, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, such as:
- Complications related to anesthesia
- Injury to the cervix
- Scarring of endometrium
- Infection of the uterus or fallopian tubes
- Uterine perforation (hole in the uterus)
- Damage to other organs in the abdomen
- Need for additional surgery
- Possible need to remove the uterus— hysterectomy
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include having a pre-existing infection or condition.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Talk to your doctor about all the medications you are taking. Up to 1 week before the surgery, you may be asked to stop taking some medications.
In addition, arrange for a ride home and for help at home.
General or local anesthesia may be used.
- General anesthesia—keeps you asleep throughout the surgery
- Local anesthesia—numbs the area only
Description of Procedure
A pelvic exam will be done to find out the size and location of the uterus. The vagina and cervix will be cleaned with an antiseptic solution. A speculum will be placed in the vagina. An instrument called a cervical dilator will be placed into the cervical canal. Once the cervical canal is slightly open, a scoop-shaped instrument, called a curette, will be inserted into the uterus. It will be used to scrape the uterine lining and remove tissue through the vagina. After sampling the endometrium, the instrument will be removed from the cervix.
Immediately After Procedure
You will be taken to a recovery room, where the nurses will monitor you.
How Long Will It Take?
You may be able to go home in a few hours.
Will It Hurt?
If you have general anesthesia, you will have no pain during the procedure. With local anesthesia, you may have some cramping and back pain.
After the procedure, pain may last up to 24 hours.
At the Care Center
You will be monitored in the recovery center.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
- It is common to have some vaginal bleeding and discharge after a D&C. Use sanitary pads, not tampons.
- Refrain from placing anything inside your vagina until instructed by your doctor. The cervix has been opened. This may make it easier for you to get an infection in the uterus.
Your next menstrual cycle may not be regular. It may be late or early.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills, increasing pain, or foul-smelling vaginal discharge
- Nausea or vomiting that does not stop
- Abdominal pain
- Vaginal bleeding that is saturating more than 1 sanitary pad per hour
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists
Women's Health—US Department of Health and Human Services
The Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada
Women's Health Matters
D&C procedure after a miscarriage. American Pregnancy Association website. Available at: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/d-and-c-procedure-after-miscarriage. Updated July 18, 2017. Accessed December 13, 2017.
Dilation and curettage. American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq062.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20120813T1113192776. Updated February 2016. Accessed December 13, 2017.
Last reviewed November 2018 by Beverly Siegal, MD, FACOG Last Updated: 12/20/2014