To determine the discriminative capacity of human papillomavirus (HPV) DNA testing for recurrent and residual cervical dysplasia, 43 patients with abnormal cytology after treatment for cervical dysplasia were tested for the presence of HPV DNA by PCR. An endocervical curettage was performed in all patients for histological examination. Sixteen of the 43 patients showed moderate or severe dysplasia. The HPV test was positive in all 16 patients with recurrent or residual dysplasia and negative in 12 of the 27 patients without dysplasia. The sensitivity and specificity of the HPV test were 100 and 44%, respectively. The likelihood ratio of a positive HPV test was 1.8, whereas a negative HPV test had a likelihood ratio of 0.12. Testing for the presence of HPV has the potential to select patients without recurrent or residual cervical dysplasia who have an abnormal cytological smear. This may have clinical implications, since unnecessary diagnostic conizations may be avoided in patients with abnormal cytology after treatment for cervical dysplasia and a negative HPV test.