Frozen section diagnosis of borderline ovarian tumors with suspicious features of invasive cancer is a devil's dilemma for the surgeon: A systematic review and meta-analysis

K. De Decker*, K.H. Jaroch, M.A. Edens, J. Bart, L.F.S. Kooreman, R.F.P.M. Kruitwagen, H.W. Nijman, A.J. Kruse

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal(Systematic) Review article peer-review


Introduction Frozen section diagnoses of borderline ovarian tumors are not always straightforward and a borderline frozen section diagnosis with suspicious features of invasive carcinoma (reported as "at least borderline" or synonymous descriptions) presents us with the dilemma of whether or not to perform a full surgical staging procedure. By performing a systematic review and meta-analysis, the prevalence of straightforward borderline and "at least borderline" frozen section diagnoses, as well as proportion of patients with a final diagnosis of invasive carcinoma in these cases, were assessed and compared, as quantification of this dilemma may help us with the issue of this clinical decision.Material and methods PubMed, EMBASE and Cochrane library databases were searched and studies discussing "at least borderline" frozen section diagnoses were included in the review. Numbers of specific frozen section diagnoses and subsequent final histological diagnoses were extracted and pooled analysis was performed to compare the proportion of patients diagnosed with invasive carcinoma following borderline and "at least borderline" frozen section diagnoses, presented as risk ratio and risk difference with 95% confidence intervals (95% CI).Results Of 4940 screened records, eight studies were considered eligible for quantitative analysis. A total of 921 women was identified and 230 (25.0%) of these women were diagnosed with "at least borderline" ovarian tumor at the time of frozen section. Final histological diagnoses were reported in five studies, including 61 women with an "at least borderline" diagnosis and 290 women with a straightforward borderline frozen section diagnosis. Twenty-five of 61 women (41.0%) of the "at least borderline" group had invasive cancer at final diagnosis, compared with 28 of 290 women (9.7%) of the straightforward borderline frozen section group (risk difference -0.34, 95% CI -0.53 to -0.15; relative risk 0.25, 95% CI 0.13-0.50).Conclusions Women diagnosed with "at least borderline" frozen section diagnoses were found to have a higher chance of carcinoma upon final diagnosis when compared with women with a straightforward borderline frozen section diagnosis (41.0% vs 9.7%). Especially in the serous subtype, and after preoperative consent, full staging during initial surgery might be considered in these cases to prevent a second surgical procedure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1376
Number of pages8
JournalActa Obstetricia et Gynecologica Scandinavica
Issue number8
Early online date4 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • borderline tumors of the ovary
  • frozen section
  • operative surgical procedure
  • ovarian cancer
  • ovarian neoplasm

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