A dilator is an instrument which is designed to widen an opening in the body. There are a number of different settings in which dilators may be used, ranging from surgeries to the treatment of gynecological conditions. Dilators are classically sold through medical supply companies, and they come in a range of sizes and designs for different applications.
In surgery, dilators are sometimes used to enlarge openings to gain access. Cervical dilators, for example, are placed in the cervix to encourage it to expand for the purpose of accessing the uterus. Dilators are also used to widen the ureter, esophagus, and various blood vessels for different types of procedures. In this case, the dilator is used temporarily during the surgery, to prep a site for surgery, or to hold an opening so that a permanent device such as a stent can be inserted.
Ballon catheters are commonly used as dilators, because they can be inserted in a deflated state and gently inflated to the desired level. Dilation can also be accomplished with specialty tubing and surgical instruments. The method used depends on the preferences of the doctor, and the situation in which the dilator is being used. In all cases, the goal is to avoid causing damage to the area involved with the dilator while still getting clear access to complete a procedure.
The term “dilators” is often assumed to mean “vaginal dilators.” Vaginal dilators are medical instruments which are used to address various gynecological conditions. They can be used to enlarge the vagina, as may be done after reconstructive surgery in which a vagina is made, because the opening created by the surgery may not be large enough. They can also be used by patients who are attempting to manage vaginismus, narrow vaginal openings, and similar gynecological problems. These devices are prescribed by a gynecologist, after an examination of the vagina and a discussion with the patient about the goals of treatment.
In the case of vaginal dilators, the dilators are designed to be used at home as part of a home care regimen. They come in a series of graduated sizes, with the patient gradually working up to the largest dilator. Typically, the dilators are lubricated, inserted, and held in place to encourage the tissue to stretch. It can take months of regular dilation sessions to achieve the desired goal of dilation, and the process requires a great deal of patience.