Intraoperative Cytology for Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery: A Quality Improvement Analysis

Luis E. De Las Casas, Alexandra M. Danakas, Jose R. Torrealba, Joseph J. Wizorek, Mark G. Ettel, Michal J. Lada, Hans Brunnström, John Plavnicky, Melissa Sweeney, Carolyn E. Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Frozen section is a standard of care procedure during thoracic surgery when an immediate diagnosis is needed. An alternative procedure is intraoperative cytology. Video-assisted thoracic surgery is currently widely used for thoracic surgical procedures. The aim of this study was to assess intraoperative cytology together with frozen section for accuracy, turnaround time, and total response time during video-assisted thoracic surgery. Methods: We included patients having video-assisted thoracic surgery between August 2018 and February 2019 at our institution. A cytopathologist and a surgical pathologist independently performed intraoperative cytology and frozen sections, respectively. Final histologic diagnosis was the reference standard. Intraoperative cytology, frozen section turnaround, and total response times were analyzed. Results: A total of 52 specimens from 27 patients were included. The intraoperative cytology correlated with final histology in 98% of cases. Frozen section correlated with final histology in 100% of cases. Intraoperative cytology turnaround and total response times were equal (mean, 4.35 minutes; range, 2-15 minutes). Mean frozen section turnaround and response times were 26.2 minutes (range, 9-61 minutes) and 36.7 minutes (range, 16-90 minutes), respectively. We found a statistically significant difference between intraoperative cytology and frozen section turnaround time and total response times (P <.001). Conclusions: This study highlights that intraoperative cytology could be as accurate as frozen section and considerably faster during video-assisted thoracic surgery (P <.001). Total response time could potentially be used as a quality metric for video-assisted thoracic surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)413-420
Number of pages8
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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