Our aim was to investigate the ways in which surgeons who perform head and neck ablative procedures on a regular basis define margins, how they use frozen sections to evaluate margins, and the effect of chemoradiation on determining tumor margins.
A custom-designed questionnaire was mailed to members of the American Head and Neck Society asking members how they evaluate and define tumor margins.
Of 1500 surveys mailed, 476 completed surveys were received. The most common response for distance of a clear pathologic margin was >5 mm on microscopic evaluation. A margin containing carcinoma in situ was considered a positive margin by most, but most did not consider a margin containing dysplasia a positive margin. When initial frozen section margins are positive for tumor and further resection results in negative frozen section margins, 90% consider the patient's margin negative. Most surgeons sample the frozen section from the surgical bed rather than from the main specimen. Nearly half use wider margins when resecting tumors treated with neoadjuvant therapy. When resecting recurrent or residual tumors treated with previous chemoradiation therapy, most resect to the pretreatment margin.
No uniform criteria to define a clear surgical margin exist among practicing head and neck surgeons. Most head and neck surgeons consider margins clear if resection completed after an initial positive frozen section margin reveals negative margins, but this view is not shared by all. Most surgeons take frozen sections from the surgical bed; however, error may occur when identifying the positive margin within the surgical bed. The definition of a clear tumor margin after chemoradiation is unclear. These questions could be addressed in a multicenter prospective trial. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Head Neck27: XXX–XXX, 2005