Utilizing the "frozen sections" technique, Mayo Clinic pathology teams work to analyze tissue samples from patients who are still laying on the operating table under anesthesia. The frozen sections technique requires speed, precision and teamwork between the surgical and lab teams.
Recently reported on in the Post-Bulletin, Mayo Clinic's version of frozen sections was pioneered in 1905 and is unique to Rochester. Not only does the technique help patients, but it also cuts costs by allowing immediate treatment instead of follow-up surgery when analysis finds not all the cancerous tissue has been removed.
The frozen sections technique is widely credited as having been refined by Mayo's Dr. Louis B. Wilson, who, according to Mayo spokeswoman Sharon Theimer, "oversaw the laboratories of the Doctors Mayo." Although others had tried the technique, it was Wilson who perfected it, at the request of the Mayo brothers.
According to the article, pathology team members receive alerts when a sample is about to be delivered for a case, which they have previewed earlier in the day. When the sample arrives, it is met by technicians calmly performing complex sample analyses.
Depending on the case, Mayo pathology teams receive samples from multiple patients in various stages of preparation across the laboratory; a diseased liver ready for sectioning, a section of breast tissue being spread apart for sampling, a microtome specialist actively shaving samples from frozen tissue, and pathologists peering at slides.
According to Dr. Gary Keeney, Mayo chair of anatomic pathology, Mayo Clinic performs about 9,000 to 11,000 frozen sections per month. In the case of breast tissue sampling, the frozen sections technique allows Mayo to decrease the need for repeat surgeries in comparison to other medical centers.
"Frozen section margin analysis spares patients the need for repeat lumpectomy in 96 percent of cases," said Theimer.
Read the full article for more information Mayo Clinic's frozen sections technique.