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Is one look better than two? Assessing bone tumor removal during surgery

Wordle graphic of words associated with bone tumor surgery and intraoperative assessment.
One assessment of tumor margins during bone tumor removal surgery may suffice where two are done now.
Improvements in imaging technologies have made the process of defining the extent of bone tumors like osteosarcomas increasingly accurate.

But while it’s easier than ever to say, “The tumor starts here and ends here,” when removing a bone tumor surgically, surgeons still need to take a moment during the operation to check the edges (or “margins”) of the removed and remaining bone for any signs of remaining tumor, a step called intraoperative assessment.

“You need to make sure the tumor has been completely removed and a safe amount of normal tissue remains as a buffer,” says Sara Vargas, MD, director of patient safety and quality in Boston Children’s Hospital’s Department of Pathology. “Achieving a margin that is free of tumor reduces a patient’s long-term risk of local tumor recurrence.”

During surgery, there are two ways to do the assessment, each method providing a check on the other: gross split specimen inspection and frozen section inspection.

The two methods, which are often done either simultaneously or in tandem during surgery, are quite different.

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Being PRUDENT about transfusions

What time is the right time to give a transfusion? Doctors at Boston Children's are turning a fresh eye on transfusion guidelines for children. (@alviseni/Flickr)

Cancer. Trauma. Sickle cell disease. Surgery. There are many reasons why a child might need a blood transfusion, but they all share a common theme: the need to replace blood or blood products (e.g., red blood cells, platelets) that have been lost or consumed, or make up for defects that keep the body from producing them in adequate amounts.

And though transfusions can be life saving, they come with risks, such as iron overload, inflammation or disease (a very low risk, thanks to improved screening tests). And blood products are expensive and scarce—another reason to be prudent about transfusions.

“There’s little science behind physicians’ current practices when deciding when to transfuse a patient,” says Jenifer Lightdale, MD, MPH, of Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Gastroenterology and Nutrition. “Many doctors use criteria their mentors passed down to them, which their mentors passed down to them, and so on. But ideally, the decision should be based on evidence, not tradition.”

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