In Surgery, what is Curettage?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Curettage is a medical procedure involving the use of an instrument called a curette. This is a relatively sharp instrument, which may be varied in shape and size. It can scrape and remove some tissues from varying parts of the body. Most people are familiar with the name in context of the D & C or dilation and curettage, a procedure used to stop abnormal bleeding in the uterus, end a miscarriage and until recently perform most abortions. This is only one way a curette might be employed and there are multiple circumstances where soft tissue removal is achieved using a curette.

A sharp instrument called a curette may be used to scrape and remove tissue from various parts of the body.
A sharp instrument called a curette may be used to scrape and remove tissue from various parts of the body.

The shape of the curette makes it highly adaptable for scraping small areas of tissue and removing them. In some circumstances, doctors will use a curette to gather tissue for a biopsy. This could be done in context of something like the D & C or it might be used to biopsy small moles.

A curette can be used to clean out fetal remnants after a woman has had a miscarriage.
A curette can be used to clean out fetal remnants after a woman has had a miscarriage.

Some types of skin growths like basal cell skin cancers can become exceptionally deep under the skin layers. Surgeons removing these growths may choose a curette as a primary tool to scrape out the cancer underneath the skin.

Curettes are available in various shapes and sizes.
Curettes are available in various shapes and sizes.

Sometimes the scraping or scooping of the curette is combined with a form of electrosurgery. Many removals of tissue on the skin surface are done using a procedure called curettage and electrosurgery. These two methods might be combined for removal of either basal or squamous cell skin cancers. They also can be used to remove basic moles, regular or genital warts, precancerous growths on the skin, and some tumors called angiomas.

Tumor biopsies usually involve surgically removing some or all of the tumor, so that physicians can examine it in a laboratory setting.
Tumor biopsies usually involve surgically removing some or all of the tumor, so that physicians can examine it in a laboratory setting.

Though normally used for soft tissue removal and scraping, a form of curettage is also employed in dental work. Curette tools that are sharp can remove plaque and tartar from teeth. In fact, most people are familiar with the look of a curette from this particular use.

Curettage may be used in some maxillofacial surgeries.
Curettage may be used in some maxillofacial surgeries.

This simple definition of curettage is that it is a surgical procedure used to remove tissue. The degree to which it is employed may depend on the doctor or surgical specialty. Since the instrument used is relatively small, it does have limits. A curette would seldom be the preferred choice for removing huge amounts of soft tissue, such as a large fibroid or other tumor. Instead, it is typically for small precise work that scrapes off and/or takes out a little bit of tissue.

Curettage is typically not performed to remove large fibroids.
Curettage is typically not performed to remove large fibroids.
Removing tissue on the skin is sometimes done with electrosurgery tools.
Removing tissue on the skin is sometimes done with electrosurgery tools.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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