The effect of lubricant contamination on ThinPrep (Cytyc) cervical cytology liquid-based preparations

Cytopathology. 2008 Aug;19(4):236-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2303.2007.00525.x. Epub 2007 Dec 18.


Objectives: To assess the extent of lubricant use by smear-takers and the effect of lubricant contamination of ThinPrep processed cervical cytology samples.

Methods: All primary care smear-takers were sent a questionnaire on lubricant type and frequency of use. Fifty cervical cytology samples were then contaminated with incremental amounts of K-Y jelly, 50 samples contaminated with incremental amounts of Aquagel and ten non-contaminated vials were processed using the ThinPrep T2000 processor followed by Papanicolaou staining. The morphological appearances of lubricant contamination were described microscopically and formal cell counts performed on all slides.

Results: Seventy of 94 (74.5%) primary care smear-takers indicated lubricant use of whom 9/70 (12.8%) used Aquagel and 61/70 (87.2%) used K-Y jelly. K-Y jelly appeared as mucoid blue deposits in the slide background whereas Aquagel appeared as pink stringy background material. Cell counting showed a significant difference between Aquagel and K-Y jelly contaminated slides compared to the original non-contaminated preparations for all fields and the average fields (P < 0.001) with a significantly higher count for the original non-contaminated slides than the lubricant contaminated groups.

Conclusion: Lubricant contamination of ThinPrep cervical cytology samples may result in reduced cellularity of the subsequent slide. This study provides evidence-based data to support British Society for Clinical Cytology recommendations for no lubricant use when taking cervical samples.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lubricants*
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Surveys and Questionnaires*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Vaginal Smears / methods*
  • Vaginal Smears / standards


  • Lubricants