Colposcopy is a medical diagnostic procedure employed to examine an illuminated, magnified view of the cervix and the tissues of the vagina and vulva. The colposcope magnifies, or enlarges, the image of the outer portion of the cervix. The instrument, colposcope provides an enlarged view of the areas, helping the colposcopist to visually distinguish normal from abnormal tissue and take biopsies for further pathological examination or Female Tests.
It functions as a lighted binocular microscope to magnify the view of the cervix, vagina, and vulvar surface. Low power may be used to obtain a general impression of the surface architecture. Medium and high powers are used to evaluate the vagina and cervix. The higher powers give the idea of certain vascular patterns that may indicate the presence of more advanced pre-cancerous or cancerous lesions. Various light filters are available to highlight different aspects of the surface of the cervix. After a complete examination, the colposcopist determines the areas with the highest degree of visible abnormality and may obtain biopsies from these areas using a long biopsy instrument. Adequate follow-up is critical to the success of this procedure.
During the colposcopy, the Gynecologist focuses on the areas of the cervix where light does not pass through. Abnormal cervical changes are seen as white areas, the whiter the area, the worse the cervical dysplasia. Abnormal vascular changes are also apparent through the colposcope. A tissue sample or biopsy is taken from the whitest abnormal areas and sent to the lab for further evaluation.
A special instrument called a speculum is inserted into your vagina. This will hold the walls of your vagina slightly apart so that the cervix is visible. The colposcope does not go into your vagina, but is positioned between the legs to allow the doctor to examine the cervix. The colposcope is like a microscope with a light on the end, at the opening of the vagina and the doctor will then look through the colposcope to carefully examine the cervix. In this way, the doctor can see the location and pattern of any abnormal cells. The examination usually starts with a repeat Pap smear. The first smear is taken from the outside of the cervix using a spatula. The second is taken from the canal of the cervix using a special brush. After taking the Pap smear, the specialist will dab the cervix with very mild acetic acid (vinegar) solution. This will help to identify any abnormal cells.
Complications: 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.