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What Is a Uterus Cleaning?

By Amber Eberle
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A uterus cleaning, also called a dilation and cutterage, is a medical procedure in which tissues from the uterine wall are scraped or suctioned away. This most often happens by manually dialating the cervix, which is the opening to the uterus, then inserting one or more specially designed tools into the cavity to remove problematic tissues or growths. The procedure is usually only done when absolutely necessary since it is a minor surgery and there are risks attached. Medical experts often recommend dilation and cutterage in women who suffer from fibroids or uterine polyps, which are painful and sometimes harmful growths, as well as to remove tissues that should have detached on their own after the birth of a baby, a miscarriage, or an abortion. It can sometimes also be done as a way to gather tissue for testing, particularly when there isn’t any clear diagnosis for problems like pain or infertility.

When and Why It’s Done

Despite the “cleaning” part of the name, this isn’t usually something that’s done on a routine basis and isn’t considered a normal part of female hygiene. A uterine cleaning is a type of surgery that basically vacates all of the tissues and cellular matter attached to the uterine walls. In a sense this it what a menstrual period does, at least on a broad level, but in the case of a scheduled uterine cleaning the process is streamlined and much more controlled.

Dilation and cutterage is often used in order to make a diagnosis in a patient that has symptoms such as pelvic pain, irregular or very heavy bleeding, or vaginal bleeding after menopause. The tissue obtained from the procedure can be tested for things like uterine cancer, uterine polyps, or a pre-cancerous condition called endometrial hyperplasia. A uterus cleaning may stop heavy or irregular bleeding, but it is not uncommon for the bleeding to reoccur after two to six months if the underlying condition is not treated.

The surgery is also commonly performed when a doctor knows the source of the problem. It can be used to remove non-cancerous growths, for instance, such as uterine polyps or fibroids. Dilation and cutterage is also done when the placenta is not fully expelled after the delivery of a baby, or when tissue remains in the uterus after a miscarriage or abortion. When tissues like these are left attached, they can cause hemorrhage that can lead to many more complicated, and in some cases even life-threatening, conditions. Having the tissues removed under these circumstances isn’t always pleasant but it is almost always recommended to avoid problems later on.

Procedural Basics

This sort of surgery is usually done under local, regional, or general anesthesia, depending on the circumstances and the health of the patient. During the procedure, a speculum is used to open the vagina and allow the doctor access to the cervix, which is the narrow opening to the uterus. The doctor then uses a thin strip of metal to determine the angle and depth of the uterus. Metal rods, growing progressively thicker in size, are subsequently inserted into the cervix until it becomes properly dilated for the procedure.

After dilation, the doctor may insert an instrument called a hysteroscope to look at the inside of the uterus. This is typically followed by the use of a tool called a curette, which scrapes or suctions away the uterine tissue. It is common for any tissue retrieved from a uterus cleaning to be sent to a lab for testing.

What Patients Can Expect

Uterine cleanings are typically done as “outpatient” procedures, which means that patients can typically go home as soon as things are finished and an overnight stay isn’t usually required. Many of these operations are done in hospitals, but depending on the circumstances they may also be able to be performed in a doctor’s office or clinic. The whole thing usually takes about 20 minutes to complete, and a woman may experience cramping and light bleeding for several days after the procedure.

Risks and Precautions

Like any surgeries, cleanings carry a number of risks. They are typically performed only when medically necessary, and women who have a history of blood clotting problems or who are on blood thinning medication may not be good candidates. Any scraping that is done with too much force can scar the uterine walls as well, which can lead to its own set of problems. In most cases cleanings are only a good idea if the benefits outweigh the potential drawbacks.

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Discussion Comments
By anon997726 — On Feb 19, 2017

My mom is 44 years old. She has heavy bleeding during her menstrual cycle. The doctor prescribed her to do a uterus cleaning. Are there any complications with the procedure?

By anon344553 — On Aug 10, 2013

I had one done a few days ago. It didn't take long -- about 30 minutes from when I was awake to when I was sent back to my room that I noticed I was only gone that time frame. It depends on how fast one can be knocked out so they can perform the surgery. I only have bled the first day and yes, I had cramps right after. I took 800mg of Ibuprofen and then later on during the night was given pain killer meds. The next day I was allowed home and given iron pills for the constant loss of blood I had experienced from having been on my period for about a month and a half. It was very heavy and my weakness, along with the dread and stress of my husband deploying in a week, was the thing that threw me off more and I had lost my appetite.

I'm still not hungry, but I force myself to eat so I can take the iron pills. I am waiting to see the doctor on Monday and hopefully I'll know what's going on. I'm in Germany and the communication is frustrating since only one nurse spoke broken English. I'm sure there might have been more who did, but she was the only one who seemed kind or caring. Being new out here and being alone and knowing in a few days my husband is off to war, well, it's tough. If you have to get one, then just relax and know that it must be done. I know it’s scary, but if you don’t do it, then you can’t get the help you need.

By anon312245 — On Jan 06, 2013

I'm really scared. I've got to get this done and I've never had an operation before. I also don't know what the cause of my heavy and irregular bleeding is. Has anyone got any advice?

By Oceana — On Nov 29, 2011

I had a uterus cleaning to remove some polyps. I had been bleeding a lot in between periods, and I could never predict when my actual period was, because I couldn't tell it apart from the other times of bleeding.

The doctor determined that I had polyps, and I needed to have them removed. He used a metal tool with a loop on the end to scrape my uterus, and the polyps came off as it moved across them.

The biggest polyp I had was the size of a golf ball. It was hard to believe that thing had been in my uterus and I hadn't even known about it!

By OeKc05 — On Nov 29, 2011

@kylee07drg – I understand your friend's anguish. I would be nervous if someone were inserting metal rods into my personal area, too!

I've never had a uterus cleaning, but my sister has. She didn't expel all of her placenta after her son was born, so the doctor had to go in after it. Since she was in a weakened condition from having just given birth, the doctor totally knocked her out to do the procedure.

She didn't notice much cramping, but she said that her body had been through so much that one more thing wouldn't hurt. She had experienced a lot of pain during labor, and nothing could compare to that.

By kylee07drg — On Nov 28, 2011

My friend recently had a miscarriage. It was very traumatic to her, and the uterus cleaning she had to endure added to her suffering.

Because she was fairly healthy, the doctor only used regional anesthesia. Just being awake and knowing what was going on was very scary to her, because she is even scared of having pap smears. This was way more invasive than that.

After the cleaning, she had cramps so bad that she needed pain medication. The doctor had anticipated this, and he had written her a prescription, just in case.

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