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Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews

Intraoperative frozen section analysis for the diagnosis of early stage ovarian cancer in suspicious pelvic masses

Overview of attention for article published in Cochrane database of systematic reviews, March 2016
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  • In the top 25% of all research outputs scored by Altmetric
  • High Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age (88th percentile)
  • Above-average Attention Score compared to outputs of the same age and source (58th percentile)

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Intraoperative frozen section analysis for the diagnosis of early stage ovarian cancer in suspicious pelvic masses
Published in
Cochrane database of systematic reviews, March 2016
DOI 10.1002/14651858.cd010360.pub2
Pubmed ID

Nithya DG Ratnavelu, Andrew P Brown, Susan Mallett, Rob JPM Scholten, Amit Patel, Christina Founta, Khadra Galaal, Paul Cross, Raj Naik


Women with suspected early-stage ovarian cancer need surgical staging which involves taking samples from areas within the abdominal cavity and retroperitoneal lymph nodes in order to inform further treatment. One potential strategy is to surgically stage all women with suspicious ovarian masses, without any histological information during surgery. This avoids incomplete staging, but puts more women at risk of potential surgical over-treatment.A second strategy is to perform a two-stage procedure to remove the pelvic mass and subject it to paraffin sectioning, which involves formal tissue fixing with formalin and paraffin embedding, prior to ultrathin sectioning and multiple site sampling of the tumour. Surgeons may then base further surgical staging on this histology, reducing the rate of over-treatment, but conferring additional surgical and anaesthetic morbidity.A third strategy is to perform a rapid histological analysis on the ovarian mass during surgery, known as 'frozen section'. Tissues are snap frozen to allow fine tissue sections to be cut and basic histochemical staining to be performed. Surgeons can perform or avoid the full surgical staging procedure depending on the results. However, this is a relatively crude test compared to paraffin sections, which take many hours to perform. With frozen section there is therefore a risk of misdiagnosing malignancy and understaging women subsequently found to have a presumed early-stage malignancy (false negative), or overstaging women without a malignancy (false positive). Therefore it is important to evaluate the accuracy and usefulness of adding frozen section to the clinical decision-making process. To assess the diagnostic test accuracy of frozen section (index test) to diagnose histopathological ovarian cancer in women with suspicious pelvic masses as verified by paraffin section (reference standard). We searched MEDLINE (January 1946 to January 2015), EMBASE (January 1980 to January 2015) and relevant Cochrane registers. Studies that used frozen section for intraoperative diagnosis of ovarian masses suspicious of malignancy, provided there was sufficient data to construct 2 x 2 tables. We excluded articles without an available English translation. Authors independently assessed the methodological quality of included studies using the Quality Assessment of Diagnostic Accuracy Studies tool (QUADAS-2) domains: patient selection, index test, reference standard, flow and timing. Data extraction converted 3 x 3 tables of per patient results presented in articles into 2 x 2 tables, for two index test thresholds. All studies were retrospective, and the majority reported consecutive sampling of cases. Sensitivity and specificity results were available from 38 studies involving 11,181 participants (3200 with invasive cancer, 1055 with borderline tumours and 6926 with benign tumours, determined by paraffin section as the reference standard). The median prevalence of malignancy was 29% (interquartile range (IQR) 23% to 36%, range 11% to 63%). We assessed test performance using two thresholds for the frozen section test. Firstly, we used a test threshold for frozen sections, defining positive test results as invasive cancer and negative test results as borderline and benign tumours. The average sensitivity was 90.0% (95% confidence interval (CI) 87.6% to 92.0%; with most studies typically reporting range of 71% to 100%), and average specificity was 99.5% (95% CI 99.2% to 99.7%; range 96% to 100%).Similarly, we analysed sensitivity and specificity using a second threshold for frozen section, where both invasive cancer and borderline tumours were considered test positive and benign cases were classified as negative. Average sensitivity was 96.5% (95% CI 95.5% to 97.3%; typical range 83% to 100%), and average specificity was 89.5% (95% CI 86.6% to 91.9%; typical range 58% to 99%).Results were available from the same 38 studies, including the subset of 3953 participants with a frozen section result of either borderline or invasive cancer, based on final diagnosis of malignancy. Studies with small numbers of disease-negative cases (borderline cases) had more variation in estimates of specificity. Average sensitivity was 94.0% (95% CI 92.0% to 95.5%; range 73% to 100%), and average specificity was 95.8% (95% CI 92.4% to 97.8%; typical range 81% to 100%).Our additional analyses showed that, if the frozen section showed a benign or invasive cancer, the final diagnosis would remain the same in, on average, 94% and 99% of cases, respectively.In cases where the frozen section diagnosis was a borderline tumour, on average 21% of the final diagnoses would turn out to be invasive cancer.In three studies, the same pathologist interpreted the index and reference standard tests, potentially causing bias. No studies reported blinding pathologists to index test results when reporting paraffin sections.In heterogeneity analyses, there were no statistically significant differences between studies with pathologists of different levels of expertise. In a hypothetical population of 1000 patients (290 with cancer and 80 with a borderline tumour), if a frozen section positive test result for invasive cancer alone was used to diagnose cancer, on average 261 women would have a correct diagnosis of a cancer, and 706 women would be correctly diagnosed without a cancer. However, 4 women would be incorrectly diagnosed with a cancer (false positive), and 29 with a cancer would be missed (false negative).If a frozen section result of either an invasive cancer or a borderline tumour was used as a positive test to diagnose cancer, on average 280 women would be correctly diagnosed with a cancer and 635 would be correctly diagnosed without. However, 75 women would be incorrectly diagnosed with a cancer and 10 women with a cancer would be missed.The largest discordance is within the reporting of frozen section borderline tumours. Investigation into factors leading to discordance within centres and standardisation of criteria for reporting borderline tumours may help improve accuracy. Some centres may choose to perform surgical staging in women with frozen section diagnosis of a borderline ovarian tumour to reduce the number of false positives. In their interpretation of this review, readers should evaluate results from studies most typical of their population of patients.

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Mendeley readers

Mendeley readers

The data shown below were compiled from readership statistics for 186 Mendeley readers of this research output. Click here to see the associated Mendeley record.

Geographical breakdown

Country Count As %
Spain 1 <1%
Australia 1 <1%
Unknown 184 99%

Demographic breakdown

Readers by professional status Count As %
Student > Bachelor 25 13%
Student > Master 24 13%
Other 16 9%
Researcher 13 7%
Student > Ph. D. Student 13 7%
Other 25 13%
Unknown 70 38%
Readers by discipline Count As %
Medicine and Dentistry 60 32%
Nursing and Health Professions 11 6%
Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology 11 6%
Agricultural and Biological Sciences 5 3%
Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutical Science 4 2%
Other 21 11%
Unknown 74 40%
Attention Score in Context

Attention Score in Context

This research output has an Altmetric Attention Score of 16. This is our high-level measure of the quality and quantity of online attention that it has received. This Attention Score, as well as the ranking and number of research outputs shown below, was calculated when the research output was last mentioned on 16 July 2022.
All research outputs
of 26,163,973 outputs
Outputs from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 13,188 outputs
Outputs of similar age
of 314,121 outputs
Outputs of similar age from Cochrane database of systematic reviews
of 252 outputs
Altmetric has tracked 26,163,973 research outputs across all sources so far. Compared to these this one has done particularly well and is in the 91st percentile: it's in the top 10% of all research outputs ever tracked by Altmetric.
So far Altmetric has tracked 13,188 research outputs from this source. They typically receive a lot more attention than average, with a mean Attention Score of 35.5. This one has gotten more attention than average, scoring higher than 64% of its peers.
Older research outputs will score higher simply because they've had more time to accumulate mentions. To account for age we can compare this Altmetric Attention Score to the 314,121 tracked outputs that were published within six weeks on either side of this one in any source. This one has done well, scoring higher than 88% of its contemporaries.
We're also able to compare this research output to 252 others from the same source and published within six weeks on either side of this one. This one has gotten more attention than average, scoring higher than 58% of its contemporaries.