Inter-institutional comparison of frozen section consultation in small hospitals

Novis DA, Gebhardt GN, Zarbo RJ. Inter-institutional comparison of frozen section consultation in small hospitals. A College of American Pathologists Q-Probes study of 18532 frozen section consultation diagnoses in 233 small hospitals. Arch Pathol Lab Med. 1996;120:1087-1093 (abstract: Yearbook of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine 1998, 344-346. abstract JAMA 1997; 277:1179)

OBJECTIVES: To study the intraoperative turnaround time for performing a frozen section (FS) and to examine pathology practice variables that influence it.

DESIGN: Over a 4-month period in 1995, participants in the College of American Pathologists Q-Probes laboratory quality improvement program prospectively collected data on up to 30 FS procedures performed on elective inpatient surgical cases and completed questionnaires profiling their FS practice characteristics. SETTING: Surgical pathology laboratories serving private and public hospitals.

PARTICIPANTS: Seven hundred institutions located in North America (667), Australia (12), New Zealand (1), the United Kingdom (3), Hong Kong (1), Mexico (1), and Norway (1). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The 90% FS block completion time defined as the time interval, in minutes, within which the fastest 90% of all FS blocks were completed, measured from the time pathologists received FS specimens to the time they communicated FS results to the surgeon.

RESULTS: Participants submitted data on 32868 FS blocks. Ninety percent of FS procedures were completed within 20 minutes. Frozen section turnaround times exceeding 20 minutes, termed outlier turnaround times, were more likely to occur when more than one pathologist participated in the FS diagnosis, pathology residents and medical students participated in the FS procedure, the pathologist had to retrieve and review previous case material during the FS procedure, the pathologist simultaneously received additional specimens from other FS cases, the pathologist was unable to reach a final FS diagnosis, and when technical problems occurred during the FS procedure. Seventy percent of all participating hospitals completed 90% of their frozen sections within 20 minutes. The institutional 90% completion times were shorter for hospitals containing 300 or fewer occupied beds than for those containing more than 300 occupied beds.

CONCLUSIONS: The data suggest that 90% of FS block turnaround times can be performed within 20 minutes, measured from the time that pathologists receive FS specimens to the time that pathologists return FS diagnoses to surgeons.