The present study was designed to further assess the validity of the cytological description of morphological lesions said to be related to Papillomavirus (HPV) infections in senior women. The casuistic comprised 196 cervical smears from a group of women with no clinical or morphological evidence of neoplasia, collected simultaneously with samples submitted to detection of HPV DNA by PCR in a previous study. Three experienced cytologists studied each slide in two different conditions, with an interval of 20 months between them. The first approach was performed under routine laboratory standards, whereas the second was guided by a list of 16 well-defined parameters indicative of HPV-related cytological lesions. When suspicious cases of HPV-related alterations were grouped with positive cases, they showed on average: sensitivity of 25.5%, specificity of 84.4% and positive predictive value (PPV) of 26.8%. When suspicious cases were grouped with negative cases, sensitivity decreased, whereas specificity and PPV increased, as expected. In the second reading, which followed a "guide-list", a decrease in sensitivity was observed, contrasting with a sharp increase of positive predictive value. Among the 16 cytomorphological criteria tested, "koilocytosis", "mild koilocytosis" and "condylomatous parabasal cells" yielded the best predictive value for HPV DNA detection by PCR. In conclusion, despite the low sensitivity, cytopathologic assessment of cervico-vaginal smears leads to a highly specific diagnosis of HPV infection in menopausal women, with PPV of 91.0% when directed by a guide-list of well-defined morphologic criteria.
HPV infection; PCR; Cervical smears; Cytomorphology