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Keywords:

  • exfoliative cytopathology;
  • non-gynaecological cytology;
  • laboratory quality control;
  • pathology accredition;
  • specimen procurement;
  • slide preparation

Exfoliative cytopathology (often referred to as non-gynaecological cytology) is an important part of the workload of all diagnostic pathology departments. It clearly has a role in the diagnosis of neoplastic disease but its role in establishing non-neoplastic diagnoses should also be recognised. Ancillary tests may be required to establish a definitive diagnosis. Clinical and scientific teamwork is essential to establish an effective cytology service and staffing levels should be sufficient to support preparation, prescreening, on-site adequacy assessment and reporting of samples as appropriate. Routine clinical audit and histology/cytology correlation should be in place as quality control of a cytology service. Cytology staff should be involved in multidisciplinary meetings and appropriate professional networks. Laboratories should have an effective quality management system conforming to the requirements of a recognised accreditation scheme such as Clinical Pathology Accreditation (UK) Ltd. Consultant pathologists should sign out the majority of exfoliative cytology cases. Where specimens are reported by experienced biomedical scientists (BMS), referred to as cytotechnologists outside the UK, this must only be when adequate training has been given and be defined in agreed written local protocols. An educational basis for formalising the role of the BMS in exfoliative cytopathology is provided by the Diploma of Expert Practice in Non-gynaecological Cytology offered by the Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS). The reliability of cytological diagnoses is dependent on the quality of the specimen provided and the quality of the preparations produced. The laboratory should provide feedback and written guidance on specimen procurement. Specimen processing should be by appropriately trained, competent staff with appropriate quality control. Microscopic examination of preparations by BMS should be encouraged wherever possible. Specific guidance is provided on the clinical role, specimen procurement, preparation and suitable staining techniques for urine, sputum, semen, serous cavity effusion, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, cyst aspirates, endoscopic specimens, and skin and mucosal scrapes.