Given that highly sensitive urine-based nucleic acid amplification tests may eliminate the need for speculum exam to diagnose gonorrhea and chlamydia cervicitis, we sought to determine if vaginal infections could be diagnosed without using a speculum.
Matched pairs of vaginal specimens were collected from participants before and during speculum exam for diagnosis of trichomoniasis, bacterial vaginosis, and vulvovaginal candidiasis. Females age 12 to 22 years presenting to the Johns Hopkins adolescent primary care clinics who required a pelvic examination were eligible to participate. A convenience sample of 686 patients was recruited between July 1995 and August 1996. Paired vaginal specimens were evaluated with blinded microscopic evaluation. Analysis consisted of: 1) comparison of collection method sensitivities; and 2) assessment of proportions of infections detected by one method that were also detected by the other method.
Sensitivities of speculum and nonspeculum collection methods were 75% and 77% (difference = −2%; 95% confidence interval, −11%, 7%) for trichomoniasis, 64% and 68% (difference = −4% [−10%,3%]) for bacterial vaginosis, and 85% and 80% (difference = 5% [−12%, 22%]) for vulvovaginal candidiasis. The speculum method identified 88% (trichomoniasis), 90% (bacterial vaginosis), and 81% (vulvovaginal candidiasis) of infections detected by the nonspeculum method. The nonspeculum method identified 91% (trichomoniasis), 95% (bacterial vaginosis), and 76% (vulvovaginal candidiasis) of infections detected by the speculum method.
Vaginal infections can be adequately diagnosed without a speculum. Once urine-based diagnosis of gonorrhea and chlamydia becomes well established, it may be possible to perform evaluations for uncomplicated genitourinary complaints without using a speculum.