Fluorescence spectroscopy of the cervix: Influence of acetic acid, cervical mucus, and vaginal medications

Anant Agrawal, Urs Utzinger, Carrie Brookner, Costas Pitris, Michele Follen Mitchell, Rebecca Richards-Kortum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Background and Objective: Fluorescence spectroscopy has been shown to provide information useful in the detection of cervical dysplasia. The goal of this study was to determine if substances found on the cervix such as acetic acid, mucus, and vaginal medications can influence the fluorescence in the spectral region useful for discriminating normal cervical tissue from abnormal tissue. Study Design/Materials and Methods: Fluorescence spectra were collected at 337 nm excitation from the cervix in vivo both before and after application of acetic acid; the data were analyzed to identify the effects of the acetic acid on the spectra. Cervical mucus was acquired from patients referred for colposcopy and frozen until measurements were taken. Fluorescence excitation-emission matrices (EEMs) were measured for the mucus samples. Additionally, the transmission spectra of mucus were measured to determine if its absorption could influence the fluorescence signal measured from the tissue. EEMs were measured for samples of commonly prescribed vaginal medications. All EEMs were compared to those of cervical biopsies. Results: Acetic acid introduces changes in both the lineshape and intensity of the spectra. On average, the changes are more significant in spectra of abnormal tissue. Cervical mucus was found to have no significant absorption bands, but the measured fluorescence was approximately the same order of magnitude as that measured from the cervix in vitro. Most medications exhibited significant fluorescence in the spectral region of diagnostic interest for the cervix. Conclusions: Acetic acid appears to increase the differences in fluorescence emission spectra of normal and pre-cancerous cervical tissues; thus, its use is beneficial. The presence of cervical mucus can possibly interfere with the collection of fluorescence spectra for tissue classification. Patients should not use vaginal preparations during the 48 hours prior to tissue fluorescence measurements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-249
Number of pages13
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1999


  • Cervix
  • Diagnosis
  • Spectroscopy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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