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What to Expect in a D&C Outpatient Surgery

Updated on May 26, 2017

I Was Afraid of This Common Operation

I arrived at the women's outpatient surgery center at 7 a.m., afraid that everything that would happen there would hurt.

I was scheduled for a D&C, a procedure in the uterus. My mother, as well as other friends, had been awake during their D&Cs 20-plus years ago, and they had told me it was agony. But another friend, who'd had this procedure much more recently, said it took only a half hour or less and that patients today are almost always given general anesthesia. I did not want to experience any pain, nor did I want to be awake in the operating room—with my feet in stirrups and my personal parts starring in the show.

While I waited in a bed in my hospital gown, a friend at my side, each operating-room staff member came by to say hello: the nurse-anesthetist; the anesthetist supervisor who was a M.D., and my gynecologist, who was also the surgeon. The nurse-anesthetist gave me a morphine-like painkiller intravenously, which she said would last for six hours. It made me sleepy. The nurse sent my friend to the waiting room and set the bed so I lay flat, and then she rolled it through double doors and down a short hall into the operating room. Its walls were blue. I tried to see more, but just as they lifted me onto the table, the anesthesia put me out.

What's Done and Why They Do It

"D&C" stands for "dilation and curettage," meaning that the cervix or opening to the uterus is opened to pencil width, and the contents of the uterus scraped with a tool called a "curette." This is not fun but it is a common and minor operation, an outpatient procedure, and most patients go directly home. My surgeon had a special scope to see inside the uterus. He also wanted a biopsy because I had post-menopausal bleeding. It might be nothing. It might also be a sign of cancer. He wanted to be sure.

An in-office biopsy had been tried but did not work. This is when the gynecologist ordered a D&C and I tried to talk him out of it. He ordered an ultrasound view of the uterus, which showed a thickened uterine lining, or endometrium. In some places the buildup measured 5 millimeters, in others a "prominent" 10 millimeters. It might be hiding a tumor, benign or otherwise. I had taken medicine known in rare cases to cause endometrial cancer. And truthfully I had twinges down there although I didn't tell anyone. So I had to give in. A D&C might also find fibroids or be done to scrape out clots or other sources of heavy menstrual cramping or bleeding.

Preparation, Risks, and Recovery Time

I had received at home a booklet on how to prepare. No food or drink, even water or medicine, after midnight on the day of surgery. No aspirin for a week before; no alcohol or smoking the day before. I had to list all the medications I was taking. I did not have to shave the area. I was told to remove all jewelry and leave it at home, wear no makeup, wear casual clothes such as sweats, and a pair of warm socks. General anesthesia meant a friend or family member had to drive me there and back home (no cab riding allowed), and I had to take the day off from work. It was much like the colonoscopy experience I'd had four years before.

The risks of the D&C surgery: infection, or perforation of the uterus (described as "a tiny hole" accidentally cut by the curette). If your clinic and surgeon are careful these are unlikely. The normal aftereffects: Spotty bleeding might last for up to 10 days, so wear a pad, but not tampons. I could return to work the next day, but must take "pelvic rest" (no sex!) for seven days. Showering was okay but no tub baths for seven days, because baths might invite post-op infection.

When I woke I asked, "Is it over?" Twenty minutes had passed, and the gynecologist was right there saying he found nothing wrong and would phone Friday or Monday with the biopsy results, expected to be negative. I asked when I could exercise and he said, "tomorrow." He said to take ibuprofen if I had post-op cramping, as about half of patients do.

After the Surgery

My friend was allowed to sit with me while the nurse served me three halves of graham crackers and a glass of water, and then my friend went to get her car. I was taken to the clinic door in a wheelchair, feeling sleepy and as if I were drunk. At 10 a.m. I was in my own bed and slept until 1:30.There was minor cramping, hardly anything, so I took one ibuprofen but could have done without it, and I wore pads for spotting, which was light and watery. The first day afterward you are supposed to eat lightly, so I had a light lunch but ate a normal dinner, except I also ate chocolate to celebrate.

The clinic phoned the next day to ask me how I was, and I said, "Just fine." And I'm fine.

© 2011 Rula Lenski

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    • rulalenska profile image
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      Rula Lenski 3 years ago from USA

      Did you say something about it? I had a male scrub nurse for a later procedure, but figured he wasn't there to get off on looking at middle-aged women with no makeup wearing surgical gowns and wool socks.

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      ANonomy. 3 years ago

      I was wheeled into the OR and was shocked I had a male scrub nurse!

      I thought that was very inappropriate and disrespectful. I didn't like

      the deception that went along with it

    • rulalenska profile image
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      Rula Lenski 4 years ago from USA

      Ok, that is terrible. Did they not offer you general anesthesia? I would look into changing doctors and finding one who would be more compassionate. Everyone knows D & Cs done awake will cause pain.

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      Susan 4 years ago

      Many thanks for writing this out - just what I needed to know!

    • profile image

      Ok 4 years ago

      I had a d and c done today and I was awake. I took 800 mg of Motrin last night, another 800 in morning and a Valium half hour before procedure. The procedure was by far the worst cramping I have ever felt.... Although the procedure was done literally in about 3 mins, it felt like eternity. This was far far worst then previously being in labor for 24 hrs and giving birth vagially.

    • rulalenska profile image
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      Rula Lenski 4 years ago from USA

      I visited a male gynecologist (dark, just my type, wearing glasses, with an accent!!!) so insanely sexy I never went back. Now I have a nerd gynecologist I like better.

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      Apple 4 years ago

      The only thing that pissed my off was when I got to the operating room there was a male scrub nurse. Pretty sneaky I thought. What woman wants a male nurse undressing and putting them up in the stirrups? The anesthesolist was a female and so was her assistant. For ob gyn having a male assistant is just wrong. You don't see him until you are drugged and there is nothing you can do about it.

    • rulalenska profile image
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      Rula Lenski 4 years ago from USA

      You are welcome, Shelly, and all should go well. I found I LIKE anesthesia.

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      Shelly 4 years ago

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I have never been so terrified of anything in my life as I am this. I haven't ever has so much as a stitch, so anesthesia is so frightning for me, as well as the procedure itself. You have given me a little bit of ease by sharing your story. Thank you soooooo much.

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      4urhealth 6 years ago

      That was a great description of your experience! This is a very common procedure even in this day of office based endometrial sampling. I am a physician and I often perform this procedure with hysteroscopy, that way I can get the endometrial tissue I need to make a diagnosis but also be able to see the internal structure of the uterus too. Maybe if I get some time I'll write a hub on the same experience from the doctors point of view! The patient's view is much more important though...Thanks for sharing

    • rulalenska profile image
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      Rula Lenski 6 years ago from USA

      I am fine. Hope yours turns out well also!

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      midi73 6 years ago

      This was very comforting as I will be having this procedure in a week. Thanks for sharing! I hope they didn't find anything bad for you on the results. You sound like me so I'm hoping the same for me as well.