Mohs' micrographic surgery using frozen sections alone may be unsuitable for detecting single atypical melanocytes at the margins of melanoma in situ

R. J. Barlow, Clifton White, Neil Swanson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

95 Scopus citations


Background: It remains questionable whether micrographic surgery with frozen sections is an appropriate technique for excision of melanoma in situ (MIS) of the lentigo maligna type. Advocates of the technique have interpreted MIS as being histologically defined by nests and contiguous atypical melanocytes on the basal layer. Others, however, have viewed the periphery of MIS as consisting of scattered single atypical melanocytes, a finding that may be difficult or impossible to establish on frozen sections. Objectives: To examine the reliability of micrographic surgery using frozen sections interpreted by an experienced Mohs' surgeon, in the excision of MIS. Methods: From a total of 154 specimens, frozen sections from the 50 specimens with margins that were considered difficult to interpret were thawed, sent for routine processing and then examined 'blind' by a dermatopathologist. Results: Using the dermatopathologist's report on paraffin-embedded sections as a reference point, the sensitivity and specificity of frozen sections were calculated to be 59% and 81%, respectively. Conclusions: Using these histological criteria, micrographic surgery with frozen sections alone is unreliable in the excision of MIS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)290-294
Number of pages5
JournalBritish Journal of Dermatology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2002



  • Lentigo maligna
  • Melanoma in situ
  • Mohs' micrographic surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology

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