Background: Accurate intraoperative pathologic examination of sentinel lymph nodes (SLNs) has been an important tool that can reduce the need for reoperations in patients with SLN-positive breast cancer. The objective of the current study was to determine the accuracy of intraoperative frozen section (IFS) of SLNs during breast cancer surgery.
Methods: The authors retrospectively reviewed the records of 326 patients with breast cancer who underwent IF analysis of SLNs at a single institution. Then, they conducted a meta-analysis that included 47 published studies of IFS of SLNs in patients with breast cancer.
Results: Hematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining revealed metastasis in SLNs in 99 patients (30.4%), including 61 patients with macrometastasis (MAM) (>2 mm) (the MAM group) and 38 patients with micrometastasis (Mi) or isolated tumor cell (ITC) deposits (the Mi/ITC group). The overall sensitivity of the institutional series was 60.6% (60 of 99 patients), and overall specificity was 100% (227 of 227 true negatives). The sensitivity of IFS was significantly lower in the Mi/ITC group (28.9%) than in the MAM group (80.3%; P < .0001). According to the meta-analysis of published studies and data from the author's institution (47 studies, for a total of 13,062 patients who underwent SLN dissection with IFS of SLNs), the mean sensitivity was 73%, and the mean specificity was 100%. The mean sensitivity was 94% for the MAM group and 40% for the Mi/ITC group.
Conclusions: IFS of SLNs was more reliable for detecting MAM than for detecting Mi/ITC deposits. It lacked sufficient accuracy to rule out Mi/ITC deposits.
Copyright © 2010 American Cancer Society.