Objective: to evaluate the advantages and pitfalls of the loop electrosurgical excision procedure as applied to the diagnosis and treatment of cervical cancer precursors.
Methods: Loop electrosurgical excision procedure using local anesthesia and colposcopic guidance was performed in an outpatient clinical setting in 1189 consecutive patients referred for colposcopy for an abnormal Papanicolaou smear during a period of 4 years.
Results: Of the 1189 patients, 915 (77%) were managed in one sitting with the "see and treat" approach, and in 274 patients endocervical curettage and cervical biopsies preceded loop electrosurgical excision procedure. One hundred nineteen (10%) patients were lost to follow-up. Twenty-one patients had either adenocarcinoma in situ (15) or microinvasive squamous cell carcinoma (six) in the loop electrosurgical excision procedure specimen, whereas the electroexcised specimens contained no lesional tissue in 166 (14%) patients. Cure (ie, disease-free at 6 months or longer) was observed in 92% of the 883 evaluable patients after a single treatment and 95% after a repeat loop electrosurgical excision procedure. High-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion was successfully treated with loop electrosurgical excision procedure in 287 (93%) of 309 patients. Complications, mainly intra- and postoperative bleeding, occurred in 7% of the patients. In most loop electrosurgical excision procedure-negative cases, the referral cytologic diagnosis or colposcopy and/or history were false-positive on review, or the biopsies performed before loop electrosurgical excision procedure removed smaller areas of abnormal tissue.
Conclusion: Loop electrosurgical excision procedure using the see and treat approach should be limited to cytologically and colposcopically unequivocal intraepithelial lesions, and depth of excision should be controlled by colposcopy using loop electrodes of appropriate size. In doubtful cases, particularly in the young patient, disease should be ascertained by expert histology and colposcopy before definite therapy. Loop electroexcision represents an attractive means of diagnosing and treating cervical cancer precursors.