Intraobserver and interobserver variability in the quality assessment of cervical smears
Intraobserver and interobserver variability in assessing the quality of cervical smears, as measured by the presence or absence of endocervical columnar cells and squamous metaplastic cells, was evaluated. In total, 180 cervical smears representing the most important cytologic diagnoses were anonymously rescreened twice by 19 observers with an interval of six months. An absence of endocervical columnar cells was proven to correlate with a high percentage of false-negative diagnoses. Intraobserver agreement on the presence or absence of endocervical columnar cells was 85.7% between the two screenings. A predictive value of 57.7% was found for a negative scoring (absence of these cells) while the predictive value of a positive scoring (presence of endocervical cells) was 87.3%. Of the observer scorings, 83.9% concurred with the final diagnosis; there was no significant correlation between that concurrence and the number of years of experience in cytopathology of the observer. For squamous and squamous metaplastic cells in the cervical smear the predictive value of a negative scoring (absence) was only 20.6%. Compared to the final diagnosis, 69.5% of these scorings matched. A significant and relatively high correlation with the experience of the observer was found for the scoring for the presence of metaplastic cells. Even though the predictive values of these quality scorings were relatively low a significantly higher risk for false diagnoses was established when negative scorings were given. It is therefore advisable to have smears with negative scorings for endocervical columnar cells and squamous metaplastic cells always rescreened by another observer.
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