Accuracy of visual inspection with acetic acid for cervical cancer screening

Int J Gynaecol Obstet. 2011 Apr;113(1):14-24. doi: 10.1016/j.ijgo.2010.10.012. Epub 2011 Jan 22.


Objective: To provide an updated estimation of the accuracy of visual inspection with acetic acid (VIA) in detecting true disease.

Methods: A PubMed search provided original studies on VIA accuracy in which the gold standard for confirmatory testing was histology alone or colposcopy followed by biopsy. The numbers of true-positive, false-positive, false-negative, and true-negative results were extracted from each study. Meta-analyses were then performed with different categories of studies according to confirmatory diagnosis threshold, category of women who received confirmatory testing, and whether a medical condition that could affect VIA accuracy was present at screening. The reference category consisted of 26 studies in which VIA was performed on asymptomatic women who all underwent confirmatory testing and in which the disease threshold was cervical intraepithelial neoplasia grade 2.

Results: We report an 80% sensitivity (range, 79%-82%) and a 92% specificity (range, 91%-92%) for VIA. Study region, capacity of screener, or size of the study population did not modify VIA accuracy. The positive predictive value was 10% (range, 9%-10%).

Conclusion: Screening for precancerous and cancerous cervical lesions using VIA is a simple, low-cost, and efficient alternative to cytologic testing in low-resource areas.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid*
  • Biopsy / methods
  • Colposcopy / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Mass Screening / methods
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Uterine Cervical Dysplasia / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*


  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Acetic Acid