Achieving Breast Cancer Surgery in a Single Setting With Intraoperative Frozen Section Analysis of the Sentinel Lymph Node

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In this retrospective review, we found intraoperative frozen section (FS) analysis of the sentinel lymph node (SLN) to be an accurate and efficient means of guiding the need for full axillary lymph node dissection. FS had a sensitivity of 87% and specificity of 100%. This resulted in 3% of patients being recalled for a false negative FS result.


Current guidelines recommend full axillary lymph node dissection (ALND) whenever the SLN is positive for metastases. In our institute, we aim to complete surgery in a single setting and base the decision for ALND on the intraoperative FS analysis of the SLN. In this study, we evaluate the efficacy this practice in terms of the accuracy of FS analysis, patient recall rate, and additional time required for FS analysis.

Materials and Methods:

Retrospective review was performed of 586 patients who underwent SLN biopsy at our institution from January 1, 2006 to December 31, 2010. Intraoperative FS analysis was routinely performed in all cases with a preoperative diagnosis of invasive breast cancer and in selected cases of ductal carcinoma in situ according to surgeon preference.


The SLN was positive for metastases in 123 (22.7%) patients; this was identified on FS analysis in 107 patients. FS analysis had a sensitivity of 87.0% and specificity of 100% and resulted in a patient recall rate of 3%. Micrometastasis accounted for most of the false negative FS results. These deposits were mostly detected only on deeper sectioning of the permanent sections of the SLN. An invasive lobular histology and lymphovascular invasion were found to be independent predictors of a false negative FS on multivariate analysis (P < .01). Intraoperative FS did not significantly prolong operating times.


Intraoperative FS analysis is an accurate and efficient means of rapid SLN assessment and allows ALND to be completed in a single setting.

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