Display Settings:


Send to:

Choose Destination
J Fam Pract. 1994 Apr;38(4):387-92.

Should all women with cervical atypia be referred for colposcopy: a HARNET study. Harrisburgh Area Research Network.

Author information

  • 1Department of Family Practice, Harrisburg Hospital, Pennsylvania.



Clinicians who manage women with Papanicolaou (Pap) smears showing atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance (ASCUS) may miss clinically significant cervical disease by repeating the cytology alone. We evaluated the ability of the human papillomavirus (HPV) screen and the naked-eye examination after a cervical acetic acid wash to enhance the follow-up Pap smear in predicting an abnormal colposcopic biopsy.


Pap smears were performed on all women (N = 7458) attending six family practice offices for a health maintenance examination from August 1989 through February 1991. Consenting subjects with ASCUS underwent repeat cytological testing, an HPV screen, and a cervical acetic acid wash examination immediately before colposcopy after a 4- to 6-month waiting period.


Of the 122 consenting women identified with ASCUS, 67 (55%) demonstrated abnormalities on biopsy, including 26 with condyloma, 26 with cervical intraepithelial neoplasia I (CIN I), and 15 with CIN II to III. The false-negative rate, 58%, of the follow-up Pap smear alone for detecting these cases of condyloma and CIN was significantly decreased (false-negative rate, 27%) with the use of the cervical acetic acid wash as an adjunctive test. There was no additional reduction in the false-negative rate with the use of the HPV screen. Of the 15 subjects with high-grade cervical lesions (CIN II to III), 14 had either an abnormal follow-up Pap smear or an abnormal cervical acetic acid wash examination.


Among women with cervical atypia, a single follow-up Pap smear alone failed to detect one third of the cases of high-grade disease. Ninety-three percent of these cases were detected, however, with a follow-up Pap smear and an acetic acid wash. Our one subject with a high-grade lesion missed with this combination of tests had an unsatisfactory Pap smear. Use of both tests together may reliably guide clinical decisions regarding the management of cervical atypia.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk