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August 6, 1982

Dilatation and Evacuation Procedures and Second-Trimester Abortions: The Role of Physician Skill and Hospital Setting

JAMA. 1982;248(5):559-563. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330050041028

Some clinicians have hesitated to perform dilatation and evacuation (D&E) procedures at 13 weeks' gestation or later because D&Es are more difficult to perform safely than suction-curettage procedures. Moreover, many clinicians still believe all second-trimester abortion procedures should be performed in a hospital. To evaluate these concerns, we analyzed 24,664 abortions performed between 1973 and 1978 by four physicians associated with a large outpatient abortion facility; 3,711 (15%) of the abortions were second-trimester procedures. Dilatation and evacuation was associated with a lower rate of serious complications per 100 procedures (0.23) than instillation of either dinoprost (prostaglandin F) (1.28) or hypertonic saline (2.26). In addition, D&E had lower rates for most other specific complications. We conclude that D&E, while requiring more operator skill than earlier suction-curettage procedures, can be learned by gynecologists familiar with suction-curettage, can be performed more safely than the alternative instillation procedures, and can be safely practiced in selected ambulatory settings.

(JAMA 1982;248:559-563)