Background: The clinical significance of inflammation on the cervical Papanicolaou (Pap) smear of asymptomatic women is unknown. This study assessed the possible association between inflammation on Pap smears with the presence of cervical/vaginal pathogens.
Methods: A questionnaire was given to 290 asymptomatic women seen for routine gynecologic examination, including Pap smear, in a primary care setting. The women were tested for the presence of Candida species, Trichomonas vaginalis, Gardnerella vaginalis, Neisseria gonnorrhoeae, and Chlamydia trachomatis.
Results: Recovery of Chlamydia and Trichomonas was more frequent in women with inflammation on Pap smear than in women without inflammation, but the positive predictive value of inflammation was only 7% for Chlamydia and 14% for Trichomonas. Seventy-one percent of the women with inflammation had no evidence of any of the organisms. After a 6-month follow-up period, women with inflammation on Pap smear were no more likely than their matched counterparts without inflammation to return for a clinic visit with symptoms of vaginitis.
Conclusions: In this study, inflammation on Pap smear had a relatively low predictive value for the presence of vaginal pathogens in asymptomatic women.