Dilatation and curettage (D&C) is a gynecological procedure in which the lining of the uterus (endometrium) is scraped away.
D&C is commonly used to obtain tissue for microscopic evaluation to rule out cancer. The procedure may also be used to diagnose and treat heavy menstrual bleeding and to diagnose endometrial polyps and uterine fibroids. D&C can be used to remove pregnancy tissue
after a miscarriage, incomplete abortion, or childbirth, or as an early abortion technique up to 16 weeks. Endometrial polyps may be removed, and sometimes benign uterine tumors (fibroids) may be scraped away.
D&C is usually performed under general anesthesia, although local or epidural anesthesia can also be used. Using local anesthesia reduces risk and costs, but the patient will feel cramping during the procedure. The type of anesthesia used often depends upon the reason for the D&C.
To begin the procedure (which takes only minutes to perform), the doctor inserts an instrument to hold open the vaginal walls, and then stretches the opening of the uterus to the vagina (the cervix). This is done by inserting a series of tapering rods, each thicker than the previous one, or by using other specialized instruments. The process of opening the cervix is called dilation.
Once the cervix is dilated, the physician inserts a spoon-shaped surgical device called a curette into the uterus. The curette is used to scrape away the uterine lining. One or more small tissue samples from the lining of the uterus or the cervical canal are sent for analysis by microscope to check for abnormal cells.
Although simpler, less expensive techniques such as a vacuum aspiration are quickly replacing the D&C as a diagnostic
method, it is still often used to diagnose and treat a number of conditions, especially when cancer is suspected.
Carol A Turkington, The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit,