Automated screening of Papanicolaou tests: A review of the literature

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31 Scopus citations


Automated Papanicolaou test screening systems have now been available for over 25 years. Currently two automated screening systems are in widespread clinical use. These are the ThinPrep Imaging System and the FocalPoint GS Imaging System. In their current configurations, both facilitate faster screening by showing a limited number of fields of view (FOV) to cytotechnologists. The FOV are based on the use of proprietary algorithms applied to computerized images of the slide that determine the cells and cell groups with the highest likelihood of abnormality. If all of the FOV are deemed to be negative, the case can be signed out with no additional review; if one or more fields appear possibly abnormal, the entire slide must be manually screened. The United States Food and Drug Administration has ruled that for workload calculation purposes, looking at only the FOV review counts as one-half slide, potentially greatly increasing the number of slides that can be screened. However, follow-up studies of this technology have shown that screening accuracy declines when very large numbers of cases are reviewed per day. Recommendations designed to limit screening volumes to levels that do not jeopardize patient care have therefore been created. The development of fully automated screening that does not rely on human judgment remains an unrealized aspiration. This review covers the history of the development and clinical implementation of automated screening technology with descriptions of the various automated screening systems and their performance as reported in published literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)20-27
Number of pages8
JournalDiagnostic Cytopathology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Papanicolaou test
  • automated cytology screening
  • screening workload

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Histology


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