Background: Conservative methods to treat cervical intraepithelial neoplasia and microinvasive cervical cancer are commonly used in young women because of the advent of effective screening programmes. In a meta-analysis, we investigated the effect of these procedures on subsequent fertility and pregnancy outcomes.
Methods: We searched for studies in MEDLINE and EMBASE and classified them by the conservative method used and the outcome measure studied regarding both fertility and pregnancy. Pooled relative risks and 95% CIs were calculated with a random-effects model and interstudy heterogeneity was assessed with Cochrane's Q test.
Findings: We identified 27 studies. Cold knife conisation was significantly associated with preterm delivery (<37 weeks; relative risk 2.59, 95% CI 1.80-3.72, 100/704 [14%] vs 1494/27 674 [5%]), low birthweight (<2500 g; 2.53, 1.19-5.36, 32/261 [12%] vs 905/13 229 [7%]), and caesarean section (3.17, 1.07-9.40, 31/350 [9%] vs 22/670 [3%]). Large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) was also significantly associated with preterm delivery (1.70, 1.24-2.35, 156/1402 [11%] vs 120/1739 [7%]), low birthweight (1.82, 1.09-3.06, 77/996 [8%] vs 49/1192 [4%]), and premature rupture of the membranes (2.69, 1.62-4.46, 48/905 [5%] vs 22/1038 [2%]). Similar but marginally non-significant adverse effects were recorded for laser conisation (preterm delivery 1.71, 0.93-3.14). We did not detect significantly increased risks for obstetric outcomes after laser ablation. Although severe outcomes such as admission to a neonatal intensive care unit or perinatal mortality showed adverse trends, these changes were not significant.
Interpretation: All the excisional procedures to treat cervical intraepithelial neoplasia present similar pregnancy-related morbidity without apparent neonatal morbidity. Caution in the treatment of young women with mild cervical abnormalities should be recommended. Clinicians now have the evidence base to counsel women appropriately.