Are frozen sections useful and cost-effective in the era of intraoperative qPTH assays?

Maurizio Iacobone, Marco Scarpa, Franco Lumachi, Gennaro Favia, Clive Grant, Irving B. Rosen, Keith S. Heller, Robert Udelsman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Since intraoperative quick parathormone (IOqPTH) assays are available, the role of frozen sections (FS) during parathyroid exploration has become questionable. This study compares the results of FS and IOqPTH in primary hyperparathyroidism (pHPT). Methods. FS and IOqPTH assays were performed in 102 patients who underwent bilateral neck explorations or targeted parathyroidectomy for pHPT. The operation was considered complete when both an IOqPTH drop >50% and a FS diagnosis of parathyroid adenoma were obtained. Results. Cure was achieved in all patients. Potential pitfalls for successful operation were encountered in 14 patients with multiglandular diseases and in 4 patients who had nonparathyroid tissue removed. FS correctly predicted the definitive histologic diagnosis with an accuracy of 81%. FS failures potentially misguided the operative therapy in 19% (14 insufficient explorations and 5 unnecessarily prolonged explorations), while IOqPTH identified all potential pitfalls and correctly guided the operative strategy, suggesting further exploration, in 100% of cases (P <.0001). After bilateral neck exploration, FS and IOqPTH correctly guided operative strategy in 86% and 100% of cases, respectively (P <.05), but both techniques were never indispensable, because potential pitfalls were already evident by macroscopic intraoperative appearance. The turnaround time and costs for IOqPTH were lower (P <.001). Conclusions. The role of FS should be reconsidered, since it can misguide the operative strategy. IOqPTH is indispensable for a focused approach and, although unnecessary in bilateral neck exploration, is more useful and cost-effective than FS.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1159-1165
Number of pages7
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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