Dilation and curettage (D&C)

Dilation and curettage (D&C) is a procedure to remove tissue from inside your uterus. Doctors perform dilation and curettage to diagnose and treat certain uterine conditions — such as heavy bleeding — or to clear the uterine lining after a miscarriage or abortion.

In a dilation and curettage — sometimes spelled "dilatation" and curettage — your doctor uses small instruments or a medication to open (dilate) your cervix — the lower, narrow part of your uterus. Your doctor then uses a surgical instrument called a curette to remove uterine tissue. Curettes used in a D&C can be sharp or use suction.


Why it's done Risks How you prepare What you can expect Results

Dilation and curettage can diagnose or treat a uterine condition.

To diagnose a condition

Your doctor might recommend a D&C to diagnose a condition if:

  • You have abnormal uterine bleeding
  • You experience bleeding after menopause
  • Your doctor discovers abnormal endometrial cells during a routine test for cervical cancer

To perform the test, your doctor collects a tissue sample from the lining of your uterus (endometrium) and sends the sample to a lab for testing. The test can check for:

  • Uterine cancer
  • Uterine polyps
  • Endometrial hyperplasia — a precancerous condition in which the uterine lining becomes too thick

To treat a condition

When performing a therapeutic D&C, your doctor removes the entire contents of your uterus, not just a small tissue sample. Your doctor can do this to:

  • Remove a molar pregnancy, in which a tumor forms instead of a normal pregnancy
  • Treat excessive bleeding after delivery by clearing out any placenta that remains in the uterus
  • Remove cervical or uterine polyps, which are usually benign
  • Remove fibroid tumors, which are benign tumors formed on the uterine wall that sometimes bulge into the uterine cavity
  • Clear out any tissue that remains in the uterus after a miscarriage or abortion to prevent infection or heavy bleeding

Your doctor may perform the D&C along with another procedure called a hysteroscopy. During a hysteroscopy, your doctor inserts a slim instrument with a light and camera on the end into your vagina, through your cervix and up into your uterus. Your doctor then views the lining of your uterus on a screen, noting any areas that look abnormal, making sure there aren't any polyps, and taking tissue samples as needed. During hysteroscopy, your doctor can also remove uterine polyps and fibroid tumors.

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