Does LLETZ excision margin status predict residual disease in women who have undergone post-treatment cervical cytology and high-risk human papillomavirus testing?

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This study looks at the importance of large loop excision of the transformation zone (LLETZ) excision margins and residual cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) in women undertaking high-risk human papillomavirus (hrHPV) test of cure (TOC).


A retrospective cohort study with interval analysis performed June 2007 and June 2012 on all women undertaking treatment for CIN and subsequent hrHPV TOC 6 months post LLETZ.


Final analysis group comprised 2093 women treated by LLETZ (1396 completely excised; 697 incompletely excised). 298 out of 1794 women (13%) were hrHPV positive at TOC. Thirty-six women who failed TOC and attended colposcopy had residual CIN. No statistically significant difference existed between the completely and incompletely excised groups with regards to the detection of residual CIN at 6 months post-treatment. There was no correlation of margins of excision with hrHPV status at TOC. The overall cure rate at TOC was 98%.


TOC pathways recommend subsequent follow-up in primary care. This study identified no safety issues with TOC pathways. We can no longer assess histological failure rates at 12 months; we, therefore, recommend that this measure of treatment failure be redefined for post TOC women. It seems time to question the benefits of routine excision margins reporting, in the absence of invasion, for treated CIN. Future reporting needs to be reconsidered by the Royal College of Pathologists.

This retrospective cohort study analysed test of cure (TOC) results in 2039 women treated by LLETZ. Those with incomplete excision margins were more likely to have high grade cytology but there was no difference in the detection of residual CIN compared to complete excision. The authors question the benefit of routine excision margin reporting and also urge review of existing measures of treatment failure in the ‘TOC era’.

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