Cervical screening is a repetitious time consuming task :thus it is a very suitable target for automation.
The first static cells scanners were developed 50 years ago, one of the first being the Cytoanalyser (Airborne Instruments laboratory New York). Despite over $5,000,000 being spent on its development (a lot of money in those days!), the system failed to find a place in clinical practice for lack of sufficient computing power to cope with the analysis of the complex smear patterns which are so readily interpreted by the human brain. Subsequent attempts in Europe, Japan and America during the next 40 years to develop a commercially viable automated scanner for cervical screening were also unsuccessful.
Recently have there been significant advances in the development of automated systems for the analysis of cervical smears. These advances have been made possible by the development of of powerful computers which can process large volumes of data very rapidly and have been accelerated by the introduction of improved cell preparation systems such as thin smear preparation and sophisticated image analysis programmes .
The principles which underly the operation of the automated systems which are now commercially available are discussed in this section.