The role of HPV testing in patients with possible high-grade cervical cytology

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To assess the role of human papillomavirus (HPV) testing for high-risk types in an Australian population with the equivalent cytological result of atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance – possible high-grade (ASC-H).


A retrospective review was conducted of all patients referred with a ‘possible high-grade squamous abnormality’ Pap-smear result who underwent HPV testing for 13 high-risk types, colposcopy and directed biopsy, and any subsequent treatment.


The study included 100 patients. Overall, 79% of patients had a positive test for high-risk HPV DNA types. Histopathology was available for 98 patients and demonstrated that 47% of patients had confirmed high-grade dysplasia. HPV testing had a high sensitivity (98%), but low specificity (40%) for the detection of high grade dysplasia, and a negative predictive value of 95%.


The results of this study suggest that among patients with the equivalent of ASC-H cytology, a negative HPV DNA test for high-risk types is a good predictor of the absence of high-grade dysplasia. HPV testing in this patient population therefore has the potential to reduce the number women referred for colposcopy.

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