Raman spectroscopy and multivariate analysis for the non invasive diagnosis of clinically inconclusive vulval lichen sclerosus
Vulval lichen sclerosus (LS) is a common inflammatory condition associated with an increased risk of developing vulval carcinoma. Diagnosis is usually clinical although biopsy is necessary if the diagnosis is uncertain or if there is a failure to respond to adequate initial treatment. Raman spectroscopy has the potential to be applied in vivo for near real time objective non-invasive optical diagnosis, avoiding the need for invasive tissue biopsies. The aim of this study was to evaluate the diagnostic performance of Raman spectroscopy for differentiating LS from other vulval conditions in fresh vulval biopsies. Biopsies were analysed from 27 women with suspected LS in whom the attending gynaecologist could not establish the diagnosis on clinical presentation alone. Spectral variance was explored using principal component analysis and in conjunction with the histological diagnoses was used to develop and test a multivariate linear discriminant classification model. This model was validated with leave one sample out cross validation and the diagnostic performance of the technique assessed in comparison with the pathology gold standard. After cross validation the technique was able to correctly differentiate LS from other inflammatory vulval conditions with a sensitivity of 91% and specificity of 80%. This study demonstrates Raman spectroscopy has potential as a technique for in vivo non-invasive diagnosis of vulval skin conditions. Applied in the clinical setting this technique may reduce the need for invasive tissue biopsy. Further in vivo study is needed to assess the ability of Raman spectroscopy to diagnose other vulval conditions before clinical application.