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What to expect from hysteroscopy

Before a delicate, telescope-like instrument called a hysteroscope was invented, the only way your gynecologist could view the inside of your uterus was by performing exploratory surgery, a major ordeal that required general anesthesia and left a five-inch scar as a permanent souvenir.

Today, by slipping a narrow, lighted tube through the vagina and cervix and into the uterus, your physician can evaluate your condition in about a half hour. The painless procedure, called hysteroscopy, can help detect fibroids, polyps and other abnormal tissue. Your doctor may also suggest hysteroscopy if you’ve experienced abnormal bleeding or repeated miscarriage or have had trouble conceiving.

When hysteroscopy is used as a diagnostic tool, the procedure is usually done in the gynecologist’s office, where you’ll be asked to lie on your back and place your feet into stirrups. A local anesthetic, which may cause a little discomfort, will be injected around the cervix. When it has taken effect, the hysteroscope will be inserted into your uterus.

Sometimes, hysteroscopy is used to perform actual surgery: Surgical instruments used to snip polyps or remove fibroids are inserted through the hysteroscope itself. Such procedures are usually done in a hospital setting under general anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

Whether you undergo hysteroscopy to help diagnose or treat a condition, you can expect light bleeding and mild cramping for a few days afterward. And if your doctor had to dilate your cervix slightly to perform the procedure, he or she may also advise you against having intercourse, douching or using tampons for two weeks to give your cervix a chance to resume its normal size.