Does liquid-based technology really improve detection of cervical neoplasia? A prospective, randomized trial comparing the ThinPrep Pap Test with the conventional Pap Test, including follow-up of HSIL cases

Acta Cytol. Sep-Oct 2001;45(5):709-14. doi: 10.1159/000328292.


Objective: To compare the sensitivity, specificity and specimen adequacy of the ThinPrep Pap Test (TP) with the conventional Pap Test (CV) in a low-risk population with subsequent follow-up of HSIL cases.

Study design: A prospective, randomized, controlled design was chosen to compare the TP with CV. Cytologic diagnosis and specimen adequacy were evaluated and compared with histology data in high grade squamous intraepithelial lesion (HSIL) cases. Fifteen gynecologists in private practice, all trained in colposcopy, participated in the trial. Cytologic diagnosis, specimen adequacy and follow-up of the cytologic HSIL cases were compared in the two groups. In total, 1,999 patients were included, 997 in the TP group and 1,002 in the CV group. Randomization assignments were designated on cytology case report forms, which were placed in sealed envelopes. Each envelope had a sequential randomization number on the outside to allow tracking and authentication of randomization assignments.

Results: Comparison of results between CVs and TPs revealed no statistically significant differences in all diagnostic categories, ranging from "within normal limits" to HSIL. Specimen adequacy, however, was superior with CVs (P < .001). The cytologic diagnosis of HSIL correlated with the histologic diagnosis in 91% of the TP group and 100% of the CV group.

Conclusion: Because there was no statistically significant difference in sensitivity and specificity of the two techniques, improved detection of cervical abnormalities and better specimen adequacy might not be a consequence of utilizing liquid-based preparations but of a better sampling technique. Removing mucus and cellular debris from the cervical surface with a cellulose swab before sampling cells with a proper sampling device results in the same sensitivity and specimen adequacy and is much less expensive than the liquid-based technique.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / diagnosis*
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / pathology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / diagnosis*
  • Neoplasms, Squamous Cell / pathology
  • Prospective Studies
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vaginal Smears