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International Academy of Cosmetic Dermatology


A frozen section refers to a piece of tissue, often obtained as a biopsy specimen, that has been processed in a manner that permits prompt histopathologic evaluation.  Once the skin tissue specimen has been obtained, a portion of the tissue is rapidly frozen.  Thin sections of the frozen tissue are transferred to glass slides, stained, and evaluated using a microscope.

A frozen section allows for a rapid evaluation of the tissue specimen—usually within less than an hour after it has been obtained.  In contrast, routine histopathologic evaluation typically requires at least 24 hours.

Frozen sections are usually performed in the physician’s office when skin cancer excisions, using the Mohs microscopically controlled surgical technique, are performed.  Alternatively, frozen sections can be done at out-patient surgical facilities and at hospital pathology laboratories.

Frozen sections, during Mohs microscopically controlled surgical excisions, are used to evaluate the peripheral margins of skin tissue specimens for the presence of tumor.  Frozen sections can also be used to expedite the evaluation and diagnosis of a skin lesion for which a biopsy has not previously been done; in this setting, routine histopathologic evaluation of the lesion may also be performed to confirm the diagnosis.

Philip R. Cohen, MD
Bellaire, TX, USA

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