Cryosection is a pathology laboratory procedure. It’s used in medical centers across the nation to quickly analyze tissue mass and tumors while the patient is still on the operating table.
In this article, we’re going to give you an informative overview on Cryosection. We’re going to get into what it is, how the procedure works, its accuracy, and its advantages.
Keep reading to learn more about the rapid procedure attributed to saving lives.
What Exactly Is Cryosection?
Cryosection, also known as frozen section biopsy, is a laboratory procedure used most often in oncological surgery. More specifically, it’s used to take a microscopic analysis of a specimen, i.e., a slice of tissues or a tumor. It’s also used to diagnose diseases other than cancer, including infectious and neuromuscular diseases.
The procedure initially came around in 1905 thanks to Dr. Louis B. Wilson. Dr. Wilson was the chief of pathology at the Mayo Clinic up until 1937, and since the development of the technique, it has been experimented with and improved upon.
The purpose of Cryosection is to deliver a rapid diagnosis of a cancerous tumor or mass. Since the procedure involves the rapid freezing of the tissue sample, it minimizes any morphological damage. It’s also excellent for detecting antigens.
The alternative is a fixed tissue embedding process that utilizes formalin paraffin to stabilize the specimen. Formalin-fixed paraffin tissue embedding is a bit more accurate but slow to deliver results.
Overall, Cryosection procedures are considered a simpler and more “real-time” method that produces better control over a live tissue sample. Swift timing is essential when a patient has a cancerous tumor or infectious mass, and Cryosection contributes to faster decision making, saving precious time—and lives.
For example, if a tumor has metastasized, a surgical sample of the tumor is taken and sent to the pathology laboratory for examination. From there, the pathologist can quickly confirm the identity of the tissue and whether it’s benign or malignant. This helps the surgeon decide how to move forward with the surgery.
How Does a Cryosection Procedure Work?
A Cryosection procedure is generally quick and simple and can be done within a day.
During the procedure, the surgeon will remove a razor-thin of the tumor or tissue mass. This portion is what’s referred to as the “biopsy.” The biopsy is then given to the pathologist, who freezes the biopsy in a cryostat machine.
Once frozen to the optimal temperature, the pathology test can begin. The pathologist takes the biopsy and cuts it with a microtome. Then, he or she will stain it with various dyes so it can be examined under the microscope and identified.
The entire procedure takes only minutes. Once the tissues are identified as benign or malignant, the surgeon can decide whether an aggressive or conservative surgery is necessary. Or, in some cases, it helps to avoid unnecessary re-operations.
The Advantages of Cryosection
As mentioned earlier, a biopsy can also be examined via formalin-fixed paraffin. Otherwise known as a permanent section. A permanent section is more likely to be used in the event that the pathologist can’t determine the diagnosis from the frozen section.
Rather than freeze the tissue sample, a permanent section requires the pathologist to place the tissue sample in a fixative solution. It’s then embedded in paraffin wax and stained. This process takes over a day to complete, but it often leads to a better quality reading under the microscope.
However, biopsies tend to have limitations, as they’re only as good as the sample taken. Cancer and other infectious diseases come in all sizes. That means they may potentially be too small to be present in the selected tissue sample.
It’s possible that the cancer or disease is present elsewhere in the tissues. When this is the case, multiple biopsies are required. That’s where Cryosection has the advantage.
If more tissue is needed to make an accurate diagnosis, the surgeon will have the time to take additional samples. If the additional samples turn up cancerous, depending on the severity, the cancerous tissues can be moved during that same day.
Cryosection also ensures that the particular tissue mass being examined is in fact, the correct tissue for removal. It’ll also ensure that the entire mass and its borders are removed as well.
Additionally, Cryosection allows for the collection and preservation of tissue samples for further evaluation and scientific research. Not to mention, it saves precious time since the entire procedure takes only minutes to come up with a diagnosis.
How Accurate Is a Frozen Section?
The short answer to the question of how accurate is a frozen section? is: very accurate. There have been multiple studies on frozen section diagnosis with the same consensus.
One study conducted between 1983 and 1993 focused on the accuracy of frozen section diagnosis for women with ovarian cancer. There were 383 participants, and the results proved cryosection to be 92.7% accurate in all cases (benign, borderline, and malignant). Inaccurate results amounted to only 7.3%, which were mainly attributed to borderline tumors and their need for extensive sampling.
A retrospective review of 24,880 general cryosection cases done by the Mayo Clinic also shows positive results. The overall rate of frozen section accuracy was 97.8%. The conclusion is that cryosection is diagnosis is accurate in high volume pathology cases.
Cryosection Can Save Lives
Cryosection is often the difference between life and death in cancerous patients. It’s what enables surgeons and pathologists to work together to make informed split-second decisions. Not only does it save an incredible amount of time, but it can save a patient from multiple unnecessary surgeries.
Moreover, it’s proven to give an accurate diagnosis and find dangerous tissue masses that are too small for a traditional biopsy.
Specialist Direct takes Cryosection one step further with telepathology. By using cutting edge technology, Specialist Direct’s specialists are able to provide advanced diagnoses in real-time for distant patients in need of care.
Contact us today to learn more about our services, who we are, and how we can help you. You’ll also get a free consultation.