Unsatisfactory reporting rates: 2006 practices of participants in the college of american pathologists interlaboratory comparison program in gynecologic cytology

Arch Pathol Lab Med. 2009 Dec;133(12):1912-6. doi: 10.5858/133.12.1912.


Context: -Minimum cellular criteria for satisfactory Papanicolaou tests were established with the Bethesda System in 2001, and unsatisfactory rates are used as a quality-reporting measure.

Objective: -To evaluate practices and unsatisfactory rates from laboratories responding to the 2007 College of American Pathologists supplemental questionnaire survey.

Design: -In 2007, a supplemental questionnaire was mailed to 1621 laboratories enrolled in the 2006 College of American Pathologists Interlaboratory Comparison Program in Gynecologic Cytology (PAP Education), requesting data from the 2006 calendar year. Unsatisfactory rates, reasons for unsatisfactory specimens, laboratory size, and specimen preparation type were analyzed.

Results: -A total of 42% of the laboratories responded to the survey. Most of those laboratories (637 of 674; 94.5%) used the Bethesda System minimum cellularity criteria. Of those laboratories responding, 79% (527 of 667) used the Bethesda System criteria for atrophic or postirradiation specimens. Unsatisfactory rates have increased since 1996. SurePath preparations were associated with the lowest unsatisfactory rate (50th percentile, 0.30; 95th percentile, 1.3), conventional Papanicolaou tests had the highest 95th percentile rates (50th percentile, 1.0; 95th percentile, 5.90), and ThinPrep specimens had the highest median percentile (50th percentile, 1.1; 95th percentile, 3.4). The most-common reason for unsatisfactory Papanicolaou tests was too few squamous cells. Air-drying artifact was the least-common reason for unsatisfactory reporting for liquid-based preparations.

Conclusions: -Use of the Bethesda System criteria for unsatisfactory specimens is widespread. Unsatisfactory rates have increased since 1996; however, the median rates are 1.1% or less for all preparations. Results from the College of American Pathologists PAP Education supplemental questionnaire continue to provide valuable benchmarking data for cytologic quality-improvement programs in laboratories.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Laboratory Techniques / standards*
  • Cytodiagnosis / methods
  • Cytodiagnosis / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Papanicolaou Test*
  • Pathology, Clinical / education
  • Pathology, Clinical / methods
  • Pathology, Clinical / standards*
  • Societies, Medical
  • Specimen Handling / methods
  • Specimen Handling / standards
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States
  • Vaginal Smears / methods
  • Vaginal Smears / standards*