From the Journals

‘Missed opportunities’ for accurate diagnosing of women with vaginitis



Women tested for vaginitis using a nucleic amplification test were significantly more likely to be cotested for Chlamydia trachomatis and Neissaria gonorrhoeae than women who were diagnosed based on other test types, based on data from more than 1.3 million individuals.

Dr. Casey N. Pinto, Penn State University, Hershey Penn State University

Dr. Casey N. Pinto

Although the standard of care of diagnosing vaginitis is clinical evaluation, many practices do not perform accurate and comprehensive clinical examinations for a variety for reasons, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends molecular testing, wrote Casey N. Pinto, PhD, of Penn State University, Hershey, and colleagues. The CDC also recommends testing women with vaginitis for Chlamydia trachomatis (CT) and Neissaria gonorrhoeae (NG) given the high rate of coinfections between vaginitis and these sexually transmitted infections, but data on cotesting in clinical practice are limited, they said.

In a study published in Sexually Transmitted Diseases, the researchers reviewed data from a commercial administrative claims database for 1,359,289 women aged 18-50 years who were diagnosed with vaginitis between 2012 and 2017.

The women were categorized into groups based on type of vaginitis diagnosis: nucleic amplification test (NAAT), DNA probe test, traditional lab test, and those diagnosed clinically at an index visit but with no CPT code for further testing.

Overall, nearly half of the women (49.2%) had no CPT code for further vaginitis testing beyond clinical diagnosis. Of those with CPT codes for testing, 50.9% underwent traditional point-of-care testing, wet mount, or culture, 23.5% had a DNA probe, and 20.6% had NAAT testing.

Approximately one-third (34%) of women were cotested for CT/NG. Testing rates varied widely across the type of vaginitis test, from 70.8% of women who received NAAT to 22.8% of women with no CPT code. In multivariate analysis including age, region, and the Charlson Comorbidity Index (CCI), those tested with NAAT were eight times more likely to be cotested for CT/NG than those with no CPT code (odds ratio, 8.77; P < .0001).

Women who received a traditional test or DNA probe test for vaginitis also were more likely to have CT/NG testing than women with no CPT code, but only 1.8-2.5 times as likely.

“Our data suggest that most clinicians are not engaging the standard of care for testing and diagnosing vaginitis, or not engaging in comprehensive care by cotesting for vaginitis and CT/NG when patients may be at risk, resulting in missed opportunities for accurate diagnosis and potential associated coinfections,” the researchers wrote in their discussion. The higher rates for CT/NG testing among women receiving either NAAT or DNA probe vaginitis testing could be attributed to bundled testing, they noted, and the lower rate of CT/NG testing for patients with no CPT code could stem from limited access to microscopy or clinician preference for clinical diagnosis only, they said.

The findings were limited by several factors, including the lack of data on testing and diagnoses prior to the study period and not billed to insurance, and by the inability to account for variables including race, ethnicity, and socioeconomic status, the researchers noted.

However, the results highlight the need for more comprehensive care in vaginitis testing to take advantage of opportunities to identify CT or NG in women diagnosed with vaginitis, they concluded.

The study was supported by Becton, Dickinson and Company. Lead author Dr. Pinto disclosed consulting for Becton, Dickinson and Company, and receiving an honorarium from Roche.

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