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Objective To investigate the effectiveness of misoprostol given vaginally for cervical priming before hysteroscopy in postmenopausal women.

Design Double-blind randomised controlled study.

Setting Regional hospital, Hong Kong.

Participants One hundred women with postmenopausal bleeding scheduled for hysteroscopy from October 1998 to September 2001 were randomly assigned to receive either misoprostol or placebo vaginally before the operation.

Main outcome measures The number of women requiring cervical dilatation, outcome of hysteroscopy and side effects of the medication were assessed.

Results Forty-eight women receiving misoprostol and 48 women receiving placebo were compared. The mean degree of endocervical diameter estimated by Hegar's dilator was similar between the treatment group and the control group. A similar number of women in the treatment group and the control group required cervical dilatation. The operative times for both groups were similar. The incidence of side effects was comparable in both groups. The most common side effects for misoprostol were febrile episodes and diarrhoea. There was no cervical tear nor uterine perforation encountered in both groups. The mean duration of hospital stay in both groups were similar. Subanalysis of results were similar in women receiving vaginal medication at least five hours before the operation.

Conclusion Vaginal misoprostol was not shown to reduce the need for cervical dilatation in postmenopausal women. It cannot convert diagnostic hysteroscopy from a hospital procedure into an office one in postmenopausal women with tight cervical os.