D&C (Dilatation and Curettage)
- What is a D&C?
- What is the purpose of a D&C?
- What happens during a D&C?
- How long does recovery take?
- Are there alternatives to D&C?
What is a D&C?
A D&C is a procedure in which the lining of the womb (uterus), also known as the endometrium, is scraped away.
What is the purpose of a D&C?
There are a number of reasons why a woman might need a D&C:
- To obtain tissue from the womb in order to check for cancer.
- To diagnose and sometimes treat endometrial polyps and fibroids in the womb. (The polyps or fibroids may be scraped away during the procedure.)
- To investigate the reason for heavy or irregular menstrual periods or vaginal bleeding after the menopause.
- To remove pregnancy tissue after childbirth or a miscarriage.
What happens during a D&C?
A D&C is usually carried out under general anaesthetic.
During a D&C, the doctor inserts a speculum to separate and hold open the vaginal walls. (A speculum is a metal instrument inserted into and holding open a cavity of the body such as the vagina, so that the interior can be examined.)
The doctor then stretches open the cervix (neck of the womb) with a dilator. When the cervix is dilated, a curette is inserted into the womb. (A curette is a spoon-shaped instrument that is used to scrape away parts of the womb lining.)
How long does recovery take?
Recovery is very speedy and there are no side-effects to having your womb scraped. Most women can go home on the day of their operation.
Rest is recommended after a D&C but most women can go back to work within a day or two.
Some women bleed a small bit after a D&C. This is normal, however if there is heavy bleeding go to your doctor immediately. Some backache or mild cramping is not unusual, however if the pain is bad, go to your doctor.
Women who have a D&C should avoid sexual intercourse and the use of tampons for at least two weeks. This allowstime for healing. It also helps to prevent infection while the cervix is closing. Signs of an infection include:
- Heavy bleeding.
- Severe pain or cramps.
- Foul-smelling vaginal discharge.
If you notice any of these symptoms, contact a doctor immediately. It is important that an infection be treated promptly to ensure it does not spread or cause damage.
Are there alternatives to D&C?
New techniques for examining the endometrium are now available and may be used instead of the D&C. One of these is endometrial ablation where a telescopic instrument can be inserted into the womb to remove the endometrium.
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