The Post-Bulletin, Rochester's local newspaper, recently reported on the story of how the 19th century use of frozen sections by pathologists at Mayo Clinic played a key role in developing intra-operative diagnostics.
According to the Dark Daily, it’s a good thing for pathologists each time a local newspaper runs a story that highlights the contribution of pathology to the practice of medicine. Since pathologists typically don’t see patients, media stories about the pathologist’s role in diagnosing disease are effective ways to educate consumers. This story in particular is also valuable for medical laboratory scientists, who might be unaware of how the technique of frozen sections was developed and contributed to improved patient outcomes in the early days of modern medicine.
In addition to commenting on the original article, the Dark Daily discussed the history of the frozen sections technique and its founder, Mayo Clinic Chief of Pathology Louis B. Wilson, M.D. Prior to the technique, many surgeons expressed their frustrations in diagnosis, as they wanted fast, reliable diagnostic tests for patients undergoing surgery.
Mayo Clinic co-founder William Mayo, M.D. was one of these surgeons who once said, "I wish you pathologists could tell us if a tissue is cancer or not while the patient is on the table."
As reported in the article, Wilson standardized each step of the freezing, cutting, and staining procedures. He used a Spencer automatic freezing microtome, equipped with a carbon dioxide attachment. The attachment facilitated freezing and sectioning. With some modifications, Wilson’s technique is still used at the Mayo Clinic today.
Read the full article for more information on the history of the frozen section technique.