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Surgical termination of pregnancy: First trimester

Jody Steinauer, MD, MAS
Section Editor
Robert L Barbieri, MD
Deputy Editor
Sandy J Falk, MD, FACOG


Suction curettage is the most commonly used method of pregnancy termination in the United States [1]. The procedure, also referred to as dilation and evacuation, is usually performed between the 7th and 13th menstrual weeks. According to the Centers for Disease Control, over 96 percent of abortions in the United States in 2001 were performed by suction curettage [2]. The procedure does not require hospitalization except in women with medical or surgical disorders that place them at higher surgical risk.

Suction curettage of the uterus in the first trimester will be reviewed here. General issues regarding preoperative evaluation and patient preparation, anesthesia, complications, and follow-up, and second trimester pregnancy termination are discussed separately. (See "Overview of pregnancy termination" and "Overview of second-trimester pregnancy termination".)


Dilation of the cervix is usually necessary to allow insertion of instruments and removal of bulky uterine contents. However, very early pregnancies (eg, less than seven weeks of gestation) may not require cervical dilation. In pregnancies 7 to 13 weeks, the endocervical canal can either be dilated manually or osmotic dilators or prostaglandins can be used to gradually dilate the cervix. The latter two methods require a few hours to work and may involve additional patient visits; therefore, many practitioners and clinics due not use them in the first trimester. (See "Overview of pregnancy termination", section on 'Cervical preparation'.)


Manual vacuum aspiration — Vacuum aspiration is generally performed with an electric suction device, however, it may also be performed with a manual aspirator. At less than 10 weeks of gestation, it appears that manual vacuum aspiration (MVA) is as safe and effective as electric vacuum aspiration (EVA), and may result in less pain and blood loss [3,4]. A systematic review that compared MVA to EVA for termination of pregnancy at less than 10 weeks reported no significant differences between the two methods for complete abortion rate or patient satisfaction [3].

Both EVA and MVA produce about 60 mmHg of suction, but manual aspiration has the advantage of being quieter. Patients are often disturbed by the noise of the electric device [5]. In contrast to an electric suction device, the manual vacuum aspirator is more portable, inexpensive, and does not require electricity, thereby making it a favorable choice for low-resource settings.

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Literature review current through: Nov 2017. | This topic last updated: Jun 29, 2016.
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