Study of shrinkage of cutaneous surgical specimens

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The assessment of discrepancies between surgical and histopathological measurements of specimens is important in order to avoid repeat surgery and unnecessary follow-ups.


The objective of this study was to quantify the degree, time and influential factors of shrinkage of cutaneous surgical specimens.


Data of 111 patients were gathered on age, sex, localization, diagnosis and specimen width and length before surgical excision (in vivo), at 5 min postsurgery (ex vivo) and after 24 h of fixation in 10% buffered formalin (postfixation).


The length and width were significantly lower in the postfixation vs. in vivo specimens, with a mean shrinkage of 17.0% in the length (p < 0.01) and 9.5% in the width (p < 0.01). 81.8% and 92.3% of the total shrinkage in length and weight was observed between in vivo and ex vivo measurements. No significant differences were observed as a function of sex, age or diagnosis. A greater shrinkage in length between in vivo and postfixation was found in specimens from the trunk.


The most of the skin samples were diseased.


The largest proportion of specimen shrinkage occurred within 5 min of its excision and the shrinkage was greater in specimens from the trunk.

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