Etiologic factors related to unsatisfactory ThinPrep® cervical cytology: Evaluation and potential solutions to improve

Tatyana Kalinicheva, Nora Frisch, Tamar Giorgadze, Shashi Madan, Anushree Shidham, Amarpreet Bhalla, Linette Mejias-Badillo, Paul Tranchida, Sudeshna Bandyopadhyay, Inderpreet Dhillon, Vinod B. Shidham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: In cervical cytology, the unsatisfactory rates for ThinPrep (TP) are slightly higher compared to SurePath. We examined various causes and explored potential for resolution of this discrepancy. Materials and Methods: Totally, 19,422 cases were reviewed and 1000 unsatisfactory specimens were selected and analyzed. 531 specimens were available for wash protocol. Out of 114 unsatisfactory specimens associated with atrophic cellular changes (ACC), 48 were resubmitted by provider and reevaluated. Results: Lubricant and lubricant-like debris/contamination (LUBE) was the most common cause of unsatisfactory specimens (68%; 681/1000) followed by blood (7.5%); ACC only (without other interfering factors) (2.4%); inflammation (3.0%); and combinations thereof (1.9%). 11.5% showed scant cellularity without an identifiable cause. 3.3% were virtually acellular. Wash protocol improved cellularity in 48% (256/531) of cases. However, only 29% (73/256) of those were satisfactory (with more than 5000 cells). Quantitative reduction in LUBE after wash protocol varied with different morphological subtypes. Interpretation patterns on satisfactory specimens after wash protocol were comparable to the results on selected cohort of specimens during the same study period. Out of 114 ACC, wash protocol was performed on 68 ACC specimens leading to satisfactory TP in 24% (16/68). Totally, 48 cases reported as unsatisfactory with ACC, were resubmitted by the providers between 2 weeks and 2 years. 44 (92%) showed increased cellularity, out of which 52% (23/44) did not show ACC. Conclusion: LUBE was the most common cause of unsatisfactory TP in addition to interference by blood and association with atrophic changes. Knowing the morphological spectrum of LUBE would help to identify it as the cause of nsatisfactory TP. Communicating the cause of unsatisfactory TP such as LUBE, ACC, and blood would hint the provider to take appropriate precaution during submission of the repeat specimen, leading to improved patient care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number65955
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Cervical cancer
  • Papanicolaou smear
  • ThinPrep
  • cytology
  • liquid based cytology
  • lubricant
  • unsatisfactory
  • wash protocol

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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