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endometrial biopsy

Alternative Names 
endometrial curettage, endometrial sampling

During an endometrial biopsy, a doctor removes a small piece of tissue from the lining of the uterus.

Who is a candidate for the procedure? 
A woman may undergo an endometrial biopsy if she has any of the following symptoms:
  • abnormal bleeding
  • a problem getting pregnant, or infertility
A doctor may also do an endometrial biopsy for any these reasons: Some women may be at higher risk for uterine cancer. These include women who:
  • are older than age 40
  • are obese
  • have not ovulated for a long time
  • have trouble getting pregnant
  • have an illness, such as diabetes, hypertension, or liver disease
  • have a history of other adenocarcinomas or cancers, including those of the liver, breast, or bowel
  • receive unopposed oestrogen therapy
  • have had tamoxifen treatment for breast cancer
  • have had an ultrasound that showed a thickened lining of the uterus
How is the procedure performed? 
The woman lies on her back, with her knees up and her feet in stirrups, as she does for a regular pelvic examination or Pap smear. The doctor places a speculum within the vagina. This device helps enlarge the opening of the vagina. Then, the doctor uses a metal grasper, called a tenaculum. This device straightens the angle of the uterus. Then, the doctor passes a small, plastic or metal tube, called a cannula, into the uterus. The doctor uses a mild vacuum, or creates negative pressure, to remove endometrial cells. A pathologist looks at the cells with a microscope, and the doctor discusses the pathologist's findings with the patient. Alternatively, a small plastic tube (pipelle sampler) is used to remove tissue from the uterus.

What happens right after the procedure? 
Cramping usually passes within minutes of the procedure. If she sits up too quickly, a woman may feel light-headed. Lying down for a few minutes after the procedure prevents this. Any further cramping may be treated with an over-the-counter pain reliever.

What happens later at home? 
A woman may go back to normal activity afterwards. Cramping may be treated with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as naproxen. For two to three days, she should avoid sexual intercourse, douches and tampons.

What are the potential complications after the procedure? 
Complications are rare but include:
  • infection in the uterus
  • bleeding from the cervix, the lower part of the uterus that extends into the vagina
  • creation of an abnormal hole from a cut, tear, or puncture of the uterus
Author: Eva Martin, MD
Reviewer: eknowhow Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr John Hearne
Last Updated: 12/06/2005
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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