Clinical Pathology

Adequacy in Endocervical Curettage



Specimen adequacy is an important quality assurance component of a cervical Papanicolaou test. Although consensus exists on minimal acceptable cellularity for cervical Papanicolaou tests, no such criteria exist for endocervical curettage (ECC) specimens. We sought to identify minimum acceptable cellularity for accurate diagnosis of high-grade dysplasia (HGD) on ECC.


All patients with HGD diagnosed in a loop electrosurgical excision procedure (LEEP) from May 8, 2018, to December 18, 2019, and an ECC in the preceding 6 months at our institution were included (n = 51). All ECCs performed before the LEEP were evaluated for cellularity of squamous cells using Aperio eSlide Manager (Leica Biosystems). Biopsy results concurrent with the ECC were noted. We compared the number of squamous cells in positive and negative ECC specimens using a t-test. The proportion of ECC specimens and concurrent biopsies undergoing immunohistochemical (IHC) staining for p16 were compared using the χ2 test. P < .05 was considered significant.


Endocervical curettage specimens positive for HGD have increased cellularity compared with negative ECC specimens (mean cellularity, 10,165 vs 1,055; P < .05). Further, IHC staining for p16 was more likely to be performed on an ECC specimen positive for HGD than on a negative ECC specimen (50% vs 3%; P < .05). Biopsies performed concurrently with a negative ECC finding were more likely to undergo p16 IHC than biopsies performed concurrently with a positive ECC finding (51% vs 7%; P < .05). Finally, we observed no difference in the proportion of biopsies undergoing IHC staining for p16 when comparing biopsies positive for HGD with negative biopsies (37% vs 46%; P = .33).


We find cellularity of approximately 10,000 cells adequate to diagnose HGD in an ECC specimen and cellularity of approximately 1,000 cells to be inadequate. Further, we find p16 IHC commonly used as a “rule-in” test on ECC specimens at our institution. Biopsies accompanying an ECC specimen negative for HGD are more likely to undergo p16 IHC than those accompanying an ECC specimen positive for HGD, but there is no difference in the proportion of biopsies undergoing p16 IHC when comparing positive and negative results in the biopsies themselves. These findings further support the need for adequate cellularity for diagnosis in ECC, especially when a biopsy is technically difficult. Further areas for exploration include investigating laboratory procedures to maximize the cellularity of ECC specimens.

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