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Acta Cytol. 1993 Mar-Apr;37(2):149-52.

Crystalline bodies in cervical smears. Clinicocytologic correlation.

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Department of Pathology, Monmouth Medical Center, Long Branch, New Jersey 07740.


We examined 6,132 cervical smears, applying strict criteria separating hematoidin cockleburrs from crystalline bodies. We found only crystalline bodies in 37 cases. There was a significant increase in the incidence of crystalline bodies in women taking oral contraceptives and in pregnant women. The bodies were not associated with an increase in complications of pregnancy or of abnormal births. A review of the literature led us to the conclusion that in cervical smears two types of crystalline structures may be found. One of these is the hematoidin body, which is related to hemorrhage during pregnancy and is probably associated with an increase in complications of pregnancy or abnormal births; the other, crystalline bodies, is not. We also conclude that crystalline bodies are much more common than hematoidin bodies. We found an unexpectedly high association of crystalline bodies with low grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (CIN1) in cervical smears.


During January-May, 1990, in New Jersey, a cytopathologist and physicians at the Monmouth Medical Center examined 6132 cervical smears for crystalline bodies and hematoidin cockleburrs to determine whether a difference between these two structures exists. None of the cervical smears had any hematoidin cockleburrs, which are associated with hemorrhage during pregnancy as well as with a greater number of complications of pregnancy and birth. Crystalline bodies were present in 37 (0.6%) cervical smears. They were 15 times more likely to be in the cervical smears of pregnant women and in women using oral contraceptives (OCs) than in nonpregnant women or women not using OCs (p .0005). None of the 19 pregnant women with crystalline bodies suffered any pregnancy complications, fetal loss, abnormal births, or isoimmune hemolytic disease. Crystalline bodies were identified most often during the 2nd trimester. The size and complexity of the crystalline bodies were the same in pregnant and nonpregnant women and in women using OCs. The number of bodies were the same in pregnant women (1-30) and women using OCs (1-35), yet were greater than those i n nonpregnant women and women not using OCs (1-5). 10 of the 37 women whose cervical smears had crystalline bodies had low grade squamous intraepithelial dysplasia. Crystalline bodies disappeared in some women after delivery, yet reappeared in subsequent pregnancies. They also disappeared in some women after they stopped using OCs. Based on these findings and a review of the literature, the researchers concluded that crystalline bodies are often mistaken for and are more common than hematoidin cockleburrs.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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