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What Is a Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) for Miscarriage?

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Updated August 18, 2009

Question: What Is a Dilation and Evacuation (D&E) for Miscarriage?

"Someone in my miscarriage forum said she had a D&E after her miscarriage. What is the difference between a D&E and a D&C?" -About.com User

Answer:

D&E is short for dilation and evacuation, a surgical procedure used to end a pregnancy during the second trimester.

In contrast, surgical treatment after first-trimester miscarriage is usually called a D&C, which stands for dilation and curettage but may also mean a vacuum aspiration. The difference among the specific procedures lies in the techniques used by the physician, and the choice of procedure depends on how far along the pregnancy was at the time of the miscarriage.

In lay usage by those of us who are not doctors, however, it's not uncommon that people might use all the different procedure names interchangeably. As noted above, vacuum aspirations are frequently referred to as D&Cs, even though the former doesn't involve a sharp curette (an instrument used to remove tissue). Similarly, someone who had a miscarriage in the first trimester might refer to her treatment as a D&E, and someone might call her treatment in the second trimester a D&C.

But again, terminology aside, there really isn't a huge difference among these procedures from a patient's perspective. All surgical miscarriage treatments involve a procedure in which the cervix is manually dilated and the uterus is emptied to treat a pregnancy loss (or to perform an elective termination). The difference is really only from the perspective of the OB/GYN.

Looking for an online miscarriage forum, like the one this user referred to? You can visit ours right here on About.com.
About.com Miscarriage Forums

Sources:

Abortion Procedures. American Pregnancy Association. Accessed: Aug 16, 2009. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/unplannedpregnancy/abortionprocedures.html

Dilation and Evacuation. Michigan Department of Community Health. Accessed: Aug 16, 2009. http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-2940_4909_6437_19077-46298--,00.html.

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