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Most cases of congenital hyperinsulinism (HI) manifest as either a diffuse or focal form. Diffuse HI is characterized by the presence of enlarged islet cell nuclei, defined as those occupying an area 3 times larger than the surrounding nuclei, throughout the pancreas, and usually requires near total pancreatectomy. Focal HI contains, within an otherwise normal pancreas with islet cell nuclei of normal size, a focus of adenomatous hyperplasia characterized by endocrine cell overgrowth occupying more than 40% of a given area. This form of HI is amenable to partial pancreatectomy. The current study assesses whether intraoperative frozen section evaluation can distinguish the 2 forms and guide the extent of pancreatectomy. By frozen section analysis, diffuse HI is diagnosed when enlarged islet cell nuclei are present in random intraoperative biopsies from the head, body, and tail of the pancreas. Focal HI is suggested when random biopsies contain no large islet cell nuclei, prompting a further search for a focal lesion. Fifty-two HI patients who underwent pancreatectomy from October 1, 1998 to September 30, 2002 were reviewed. On permanent sections, 18 were classified as diffuse HI, 30 had focal HI, and 4 could not be categorized as either. Among 18 diffuse HI patients, 17 were correctly diagnosed by frozen section; all underwent near total pancreatectomy. One case was interpreted as not belonging to typical diffuse or focal HI; however, the permanent sections showed diffuse HI. Twenty-six of 30 focal HI cases were correctly diagnosed by frozen section. The remaining 4 focal HI cases posed diagnostic difficulties on frozen sections because of one the following reasons: 1) presence of equivocally large islet cell nuclei or rare truly large islet cell nuclei in areas nonadjacent to the focal lesion, and 2) large and/or ill defined focus of adenomatous hyperplasia. Twenty-one of 30 focal HI patients eventually had 10% to 93% (mean, 41.8%) of their pancreas resected. In addition to cases typical for diffuse and focal HI, there were 4 other cases whose pancreata did not fit well with either category. These pancreata showed islet cell nuclear enlargement, as characteristically seen in diffuse HI, but only in confined areas of the pancreas. Examination of routinely processed tissue confirmed frozen section findings in all 4 cases. Intraoperative frozen section evaluation, therefore, can assume an essential role in identifying patients with focal HI to limit the extent of pancreatectomy. However, a small number of cases with unusual histology warrant caution when performing frozen section evaluation.