Dilation (dilatation) and curettage literally refers to the dilation (opening) of the cervix and surgical removal of the contents of the uterus. It is a therapeutic gynecological procedure as well as a rarely used method of first trimester abortion. It is commonly referred to as a D&C.
D&C normally refers to a procedure involving a curette, also called sharp curettage. However, some sources use the term D&C to refer more generally to any procedure that involves the processes of dilation and removal of uterine contents, which includes the more common suction curettage procedures of manual and electric vacuum aspiration.
Because medical and non-invasive methods of abortion now exist, and because D&C requires heavy sedation or general anesthesia and has higher risks of complication, the procedure has been declining as a method of abortion. The World Health Organization recommends D&C as a method of surgical abortion only when manual vacuum aspiration is unavailable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, D&C only accounted for 2.4% of abortions in the United States in the year 2002, down from 23.4% in 1972.
Another risk is intrauterine adhesions, or Asherman's syndrome. One study found that in women who had one or two sharp curettage procedures for miscarriage, 14-16% developed some adhesions. Women who underwent three sharp curettage procedures for miscarriage had a 32% risk of developing adhesions. The risk of Asherman's syndrome was found to be 30.9% in women who had D&C following a missed miscarriage , and 25% in those who had a D&C 1-4 weeks postpartum. Untreated Asherman's syndrome, especially if severe, also increases the risk of complications in future pregnancies, such as ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, and abnormal placentation (eg.placenta previa). According to recent case reports, use of vacuum aspiration can also lead to intrauterine adhesions.