Colposcopy or colcoscopy is a medical diagnostic procedure to examine an illuminated, magnified view of the cervix and the tissues of the vagina and vulva. Many premalignant lesions and malignant lesions in these areas have discernible characteristics which can be detected thorough the examination. It is done using a colposcope, which provides an enlarged view of the areas, allowing the colposcopist to visually distinguish normal from abnormal appearing tissue and take directed biopsies for further pathological examination. The main goal of colposcopy is to prevent cervical cancer by detecting precancerous lesions early and treating them.
Most women undergo a colposcopic examination to further investigate a cytological abnormality on their pap smears. Other indications for a woman to have a colposcopy include:
- assessment of diethylstilbestrol (DES) exposure in utero,
- immunosuppression such as HIV infection, or
- an abnormal appearance of the cervix as noted by a physician.
Colposcopy is performed with the woman on her back, legs in stirrups, and buttocks close to the lower edge of the table (a position known as the dorsal lithotomy position). A speculum is placed in the vagina after the vulva is examined for any suspicious lesions.
Three percent acetic acid is applied to the cervix using cotton swabs. The transformation zone is a critical area on the cervix where many precancerous and cancerous lesions most often arise. The ability to see the transformation zone and the entire extent of any lesion visualized determines whether an adequate colposcopic examination is attainable.
Areas of the cervix which turn white after the application of acetic acid or have an abnormal vascular pattern are often considered for biopsy. If no lesions are visible, an iodine solution may be applied to the cervix to help highlight areas of abnormality.
After a complete examination, the colposcopist determines the areas with the highest degree of visible abnormality and obtains biopsies from these areas using a long biopsy instrument. Some doctors consider anesthesia unnecessary, however, many colposcopists now recommend and use a topical anesthetic such as lidocaine or a cervical block to diminish patient discomfort, particularly if many biopsy samples are taken.
Following any biopsies, an endocervical curettage (ECC) is often done. The ECC utilizes a long straight curette to scrape the inside of the cervical canal. The ECC should never be done on a pregnant woman. Monsel’s solution is applied with large cotton swabs to the surface of the cervix to control bleeding. This solution looks like mustard and becomes black in color when exposed to blood. After the procedure this material will be expelled naturally: women can expect to have a thin coffee-ground like discharge for up to several days after the procedure.
Significant complications from a colposcopy are not common, but may include bleeding, infection at the biopsy site or endometrium, and failure to identify the lesion. Monsel’s solution and silver nitrate interfere with interpretation of biopsy specimen, so these substances should not be applied until all biopsies have been taken. Most patients experience some degree of pain during the curettage, and almost all experience pain during the biopsy.
Article source: Wikipedia.com
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