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Colposcopic episodes of care: referral, treatment, follow-up and exit patterns of care for women with abnormal pap smears


Objective — To define the patterns of care of women after they have been referred to a colposcopic service.

Methods — The researchers carried out this population-based study by linking databases of healthcare provision for 2010. The researchers defined “colposcopic episodes of care” as a series of colposcopic evaluations beginning at the time of referral for colposcopy because of a new cervical cytology abnormality and continuing until no colposcopy or cytology service had been performed for ≥ 365 days.

Results — Cytology reports indicating low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions and atypical squamous cells of uncertain significance account for 88% of referrals of women for colposcopy. Women aged 20 to 29 had the highest rates of referral and treatments. Up to 87% of women referred for low-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions cytology did not require treatment after colposcopic evaluation, while 54% of women referred for high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions cytology required treatment. The duration of colposcopic episodes of care in which treatment was carried out lasted up to 327 days, with a median three colposcopic evaluations per episode, whereas episodes of care in which no treatment was carried out lasted up to 190 days with a median of one or two colposcopic examinations per episode.

Conclusion — Young women aged 20 to 29 have the highest rates of colposcopic services. Women referred because of cytology showing high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesions in whom treatment is not carried out require more extensive follow-up to ensure that lesions are not missed. We recommend the incorporation of colposcopy services into centralized cervical cancer screening programs.



Kupets R, Lu Y, Vicus D, Paszat. J Obstet Gynaecol Can. 2014; 36(12):1079–1084.

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