We have previously shown that the majority (88%) of SurePath Pap limited by diagnoses are due to lack of an EC component . To overcome this problem, some clinicians have turned to using additional devices (usually an EC brush) in combination with the SurePath broom to attempt to increase the EC yield. The presumed rationale for use of an EC brush with the SurePath broom is that broom-type instruments do not reach into the cervical os as far as stand-alone brushes nor do they have bristles that are perpendicular to the handle. These concerns appear anecdotal but have concerned clinicians enough that TriPath Imaging sought and received recent approval for expanded labeling claims from the FDA to allow use of a spatula + brush combination with the SurePath Pap . Our study was designed to test whether additional devices when used in combination with the SurePath broom enhanced recover of ECs or added diagnostic value to the SurePath Pap. The reason this study was undertaken was to demonstrate if the SurePath broom device was sufficient for obtaining an appropriate Pap sample. The strategy involved used a sequential testing method to show that added sampling of the cervix with spatula and/or brush devices did not recovery additional abnormal cells or additional ECs that altered the diagnostic results. These non-broom devices have different shapes and tinctoral qualities than the broom device, therefore, it is possible that they may sample portions of the cervix inaccessible to the broom, although no published evidence of such qualities exists. Importantly, this study was not designed to compare the SurePath broom to other devices used in the collection of SurePath Paps, instead, it was to designed to probe whether the SurePath broom alone was an appropriate device. This is important in light of the aforementioned SurePath Pap expanded labeling claim where clinicians might interpret such new FDA labeling as a repudiation of the broom device in favor of the spatula + brush combination. Currently, there is no available data detailing the results of this expanded labeling claim.
In this study, we found that 3% of women sampled with just the SurePath broom lacked EC cells. These findings were consistent with but better than our previous report based on 3,994 women in which we found that 6% of SurePath Paps were "satisfactory for evaluation but limited by no EC cells" . Other studies using a broom-type device have reported a range of EC absence from as low as 4.38% to as high as 29.2% [4, 11–16]. This considerable variability in EC recovery is not easily understood nor is it clear why in only one  of these seven other studies was the absence of ECs lower than our previously observed rate of 6%. The next lowest EC absence rate observed in these seven studies was 10.1% . In our current investigation, the likely reason why our EC absence rate was lower than our previous findings  was the use of a single nurse practitioner to collect all samples. Important to the SurePath broom is the flat and rounded sides to each bristle. Counterclockwise rotation brings the rounded bristle edges in contact with the cervix instead of the flat side reducing device effectiveness. In addition, a single experienced collector is more likely to achieve a satisfactory Pap sample than multiple inexperienced Pap collectors . Another important reason why our previous and current studies show a relative low EC absence rate is that these studies utilized liquid-based Pap preparation. Most previous studies focusing on broom-type devices have compared their effectiveness to other sampling devices using traditional preparation. As we have shown, the SurePath Pap reduces by 33% limited bys due to lack of ECs when compared to the traditional Pap .
Debate over cervical sampling devices often focuses on EC sampling. Unfortunately, few studies are available that report both the EC absence rate and the abnormal cell detection rate in studies where multiple devices are compared. The retrospective study by Boon et al  stands out in that it suggests that there is a correlation between lack of endocervical cell recover with the Rovers Cervex-Brush and reduced detection of CIN III. Most other studies have shown equivalence between spatula + EC brush and broom-type devices. In fact, Buntinx et al in a meta-analysis of 29 trials that included 85,000 patients concluded that there was no significant difference between spatula + cotton swab or EC brush, extended tip spatula or broom-type device in recovery of abnormal cells . This analysis did underscore that use of just an EC brush, cotton swab or Ayre spatula alone is inappropriate. Interestingly, they also found that obtaining a second cervical sample immediately after the first, even with the same device, increased abnormal cell detection by nearly 33%. We, as Tables 1,2,3,4 demonstrate, did not see this benefit when using multiple devices. In the 37 patients we immediately re-sampled after use of the SurePath broom, no additional abnormal diagnoses were rendered nor was additional diagnostic material provided that clarified a SurePath broom collected indeterminate diagnosis.
As with any study, the strength of statistical analysis increases as the sample size is increased. However, even with small sample sizes, compelling results can be obtained if the statistical significance is large. Here the data was analyzed using three different nonparametric statistical tests (for non-continuous or non-numeric data) to ensure stringency. In addition, we chose to include the p-values for each of these statistical tests to show that multiple analyses yield the same result and that no single statistical test was chosen to favor a desired outcome. The hypothesis being tested, in this study, is that the use of additional collection devices in conjunction with the SurePath broom device does not enhance diagnostic utility. Normally, p-values <0.05 indicate that one should reject the hypothesis being tested and conclude enhanced utility. In this study, the large p-values generated from analysis of the data indicate a very high probability that the hypothesis be rejected and that no enhanced diagnostic utility is realized with the use of additional collection devices.
Since liquid-based Pap testing is relatively new, little work has been done to examine sampling device effectiveness utilizing this technology. Selvaggi et al compared the ThinPrep broom to the ThinPrep spatula + cytobrush and the ThinPrep broom +cytobrush . These authors found that the EC component was missing in 24%, 10% and 13% of cases, respectively. However, no examination of diagnostic utility was included so it is not clear how these findings relate to device effectiveness in a liquid-based setting. In addition, their findings differed significantly from our previous examination of broom + brush combination using liquid-based preparation. When we examined 23 women for EC adequacy using both the SurePath broom and an EC brush, we found that the EC brush provided no additional benefit over the broom in the SurePath Pap . Like the Selvaggi et al study we did not comment on diagnostic differences when a secondary device was added but unlike the Selvaggi et al study we found all broom-only samples to have EC cells present. Importantly, our current study is the first to examine diagnosis differences that may result from adding additional devices to a broom device in the liquid-based setting. Here we found that 10/37 (27%) of cases had abnormal cytology when the SurePath broom was used. Immediate re-sampling with a second or third device did not increase the number of abnormal cytologies found. In addition, cervical biopsy of all abnormal cytologies was performed and as Tables 1,2,3,4 show use of additional devices did not improve cytology/tissue correlation.
In conclusion, the SurePath broom appears to be a very effective cervix sampling device when coupled with the SurePath Pap. In 60 patients examined prospectively (37 in this study, 23 in our previous study ) only one patient (1.6%) failed to have EC cells recovered with the broom device alone. This is in contrast to the Selvaggi et al study that showed in 432 ThinPrep patients a 10% failure to detect ECs using two devices . We must note, however, that the EC adequacy standard was different between their study and our studies because we defined EC presence as at least one group of 6 or more EC cells and they defined it as 10 or more EC and/or squamous metaplastic cells singly or in groups. Finally, our current work is the first to show in the liquid-based setting that the SurePath broom alone is as effective at identifying abnormal cells as the broom + additional devices.