Background: Negative margins are associated with decreased local recurrence after lumpectomy for breast cancer. A 2nd operation for re-excision of positive margins is required with rates varying from 15 to 50%. At our institution we routinely use frozen-section analysis of all margins to minimize rates of 2nd operations. The aim of this study was to evaluate the cost/benefit of routine frozensection analysis. Methods: A decision tree was built to compare 2 strategies: (A) lumpectomy without frozen section and a 2nd operation for positive margin(s) versus (B) lumpectomy with intraoperative frozen-section analysis and a 2nd operation for positive margin(s). For strategy A the rate of positive margins and reoperation were varied from 15 to 50%. For strategy B, a 2nd operation rate of 3% was used. Review of our institutional experience demonstrates an intraoperative re-excision of at least 1 margin in 57% of cases performed with frozen-section support. Results: The cost to provider (i.e., institution) per patient resected to negative margins for strategy A ranged from $4835 to $6306. Average weighted cost of strategy B was $5708. Strategy B was less expensive when the reoperation rate was above 36%. The cost to payor (i.e., Medicare) for strategy A ranged from $3577 to $4665. Average weighted cost for strategy B was $3913. Strategy B was less expensive when the re-excision rate was above 26%. Conclusion: Routine use of frozen-section analysis of lumpectomy margins decreases reoperation rates for margin control; therefore, the cost to provider and payor can be cost effective.
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