Utility of Intraoperative Frozen Section in Large Thyroid Nodules

Craig A. Bollig, Jeffrey B. Jorgensen, Robert P. Zitsch, Laura M. Dooley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Objective: To determine if the routine use of intraoperative frozen section (iFS) results in cost savings among patients with nodules >4 cm with nonmalignant cytology undergoing a thyroid lobectomy. Study Design: Case series with chart review; cost minimization analysis. Setting: Single academic center. Subjects and Methods: Records were reviewed on a consecutive sample of 48 patients with thyroid nodules >4 cm and nonmalignant cytology who were undergoing thyroid lobectomy in which iFS was performed between 2010 and 2015. A decision tree model of thyroid lobectomy with iFS was created. Comparative parameters were obtained from the literature. A cost minimization analysis was performed comparing lobectomy with and without iFS and the need for completion thyroidectomy with costs estimated according to 2014 data from Medicare, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Nationwide Inpatient Sample. Results: The overall malignancy rate was 25%, and 33% of these malignancies were identified intraoperatively. When the malignancy rates obtained from our cohort were applied, performing routine iFS was the less costly scenario, resulting in a savings of $486 per case. When the rate of malignancy identified on iFS was adjusted, obtaining iFS remained the less costly scenario as long as the rate of malignancies identified on iFS exceeded 12%. If patients with follicular lesions on cytology were excluded, 50% of malignancies were identified intraoperatively, resulting in a savings of $768 per case. Conclusions: For patients with nodules >4 cm who are undergoing a diagnostic lobectomy, the routine use of iFS may result in decreased health care utilization. Additional cost savings could be obtained if iFS is avoided among patients with follicular lesions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-56
Number of pages8
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery (United States)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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