Dilation and evacuation (also sometimes called dilation and extraction) literally refers to the dilation of the cervix and surgical evacuation of the contents of the uterus. It is a method of abortion as well as a therapeutic procedure used after miscarriage to prevent infection by ensuring that the uterus is fully evacuated. It is commonly referred to as a D&E.
D&E normally refers to a specific second trimester procedure. However, some sources use the term D&E to refer more generally to any procedure that involves the processes of dilation and evacuation, which includes the first trimester procedures of manual and electric vacuum aspiration.
The second step is to remove the fetus. Either a local anesthetic or general anesthesia is given to the woman. Forceps are inserted into the uterus through the vagina and used to separate the fetus into pieces, which are removed one at a time. Lastly, vacuum aspiration is used to ensure no fetal tissue remains in the uterus (such tissue can cause serious infections in the woman). The pieces are also examined to ensure that the entire fetus was removed.
If the fetus is removed intact, the procedure is referred to as intact dilation and extraction by the American Medical Association, and referred to as "intact dilation and evacuation" by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG).