Is human papillomavirus testing an effective triage method for detection of high-grade (grade 2 or 3) cervical intraepithelial neoplasia?

Am J Obstet Gynecol. 1998 Jun;178(6):1235-44. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9378(98)70328-x.


Objective: Our purpose was to assess the usefulness of the polymerase chain reaction assay for detection of human papillomavirus infection for prognostic value in the triage strategies for high-grade (grade 2 or 3) cervical intraepithelial neoplasia in women referred for colposcopy after abnormal Papanicolaou smears.

Study design: A total of 1007 women referred to a colposcopic clinic providing care for an indigent population were studied. Four hundred fifty-four women were referred after two Papanicolaou smears reported as atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance or low grade-squamous cervical intraepithelial lesion, and 553 were referred after a single smear reported as high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion. All women had a cervical smear, colposcopy-directed biopsy, and endocervical curettage performed. A sample for human papillomavirus deoxyribonucleic acid detection by polymerase chain reaction was obtained.

Results: High-risk human papillomavirus types were detected in 463 (46%) of 1007 women studied. There was a significant increase of the frequency of high-risk human papillomavirus by the increasing severity of biopsy findings ranging from 32.7% in women without cervical intraepithelial neoplasia on biopsy to 60% in women having grade 2 or 3 on the biopsy specimen. Women having a negative Papanicolaou smear found to have high-risk human papillomavirus deoxyribonucleic acid at the time of colposcopy had a significantly higher rate of grade 2 or 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia on the biopsy specimen than did women without high-risk human papillomavirus. There was no such difference observed in women with a cytologic finding of low- or high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions at the time of colposcopy. The polymerase chain reaction assay appears to be more sensitive than the commercial human papillomavirus profile test. The positive predictive value for grade 2 or 3 cervical intraepithelial neoplasia of both tests was similar (21.7% and 22.8%, respectively).

Conclusion: The human papillomavirus is associated with high-grade cervical intraepithelial neoplasia, but the screening for human papillomavirus deoxyribonucleic acid does not have prognostic value in women reported as having atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance or low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions on two precolposcopy Papanicolaou smears.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / diagnosis*
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / pathology
  • Cervical Intraepithelial Neoplasia / virology*
  • Colposcopy
  • DNA, Viral / analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Papanicolaou Test
  • Papillomaviridae / genetics
  • Papillomaviridae / isolation & purification*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Prognosis
  • Triage / methods*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / pathology
  • Uterine Cervical Neoplasms / virology*
  • Vaginal Smears


  • DNA, Viral