Biopsy-site photography an easy winner on all counts.
CHICAGO -- Biopsy-site photography appears to reduce the risk of potential wrong-site surgery and can easily be incorporated into dermatology practice, according to Dr. Jeremy Etzkorn.
When Dr. Etzkorn took on this quality improvement initiative on his own, only 5 of 239 routine biopsy-site photographs evaluated were inadequate. The biopsy site was not clearly marked in two photos with multiple suspicious lesions, and anatomic landmarks were absent in three.
"Almost 98% of the time, the photograph was adequate, which just shows it doesn't require much training or time to get images of the skin," the Mohs surgeon said at the annual meeting of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery.
Biopsy-site photos were taken primarily by medical assistants, as well as nurses, who received minimal, informal training on digital photography and were guided to take at least one photograph with anatomic landmarks present.
Dr. Etzkorn of the University of Pennsylvania Health System, Philadelphia, conducted a prospective, observational cohort study of 329 patients/tumors referred for Mohs micrographic surgery or standard excision to the dermatologic surgery unit at Penn Dermatology. Patients were asked to identify their biopsy site, indicate whether they remembered a photo being taken, and quantify on a 10-point scale their level of confidence that the originally biopsied site was treated on the day of surgery.
Dr. Etzkorn identified the biopsy site before consulting the medical record for a biopsy-site photograph. If the photo was absent and he and the patient agreed on the biopsy site, they proceeded to surgery. If there was any disagreement, surgery was postponed and the referring physician consulted.
Overall, 239 patients (73%) had biopsy-site photographs, and 90 patients (27%), referred to the practice before photography was implemented, did not.
In 12.5% of cases, the patient misidentified the biopsy site, and in 6.7% of cases the physician did, which is similar to what has been reported in the literature, Dr. Etzkorn said.
Biopsy-site photography prevented wrong-site surgery in 3 of the 239 cases (1.25%) where these photographs were available. "Without the photo I would normally have done surgery on that site because the patient was confident it was the right site; I was confident it was the right site," he said.
Importantly, all three lesions were biopsied, and all were squamous cell carcinoma in situ. So while it was the wrong site, the surgery would not have been inappropriate, Dr. Etzkorn noted.
Surgery was postponed to consult the referring physician in 3% of cases (10/329).
Complete patient confidence (10 of 10 points) that the correct site was treated was achieved in 95% of cases, with most of the remaining patients at 9 of 10 points, he said.
Risk factors for patient biopsy-site misidentification were the inability to see the site without a mirror (odds ratio, 3.95; P = .002) and time between the biopsy and surgery (OR, 2.19; P = .028). Prior studies have also shown that difficult-to-visualize sites are associated with biopsy-site misidentification, he noted.
For Dr. Etzkorn, the risk of biopsy-site misidentification quadrupled if there were multiple simultaneous biopsies from different locations (OR, 4.39; P = .003) and tripled with longer time, defined as longer than a 6-week delay vs. a delay of less than 6 weeks between biopsy and surgery (OR, 3.68; P = .007).
A biopsy-site photograph significantly increased the odds that a patient was completely confident the correct site was treated (OR, 5.48; P = .001), as did the use of Mohs surgery vs. excision (OR, 4.87; P = .017).
Once again, time between the biopsy and surgery was a significant risk factor for postponing surgery (OR, 3.52; P = .035), whereas the presence of a biopsy-site photograph cut that risk by almost 13-fold (OR, 12.5: P less than .001), Dr. Etzkorn reported.
"Biopsy-site photography is associated with increased patient confidence that the correct site is treated, decreases in surgical postponement, and the ability to identify wrong-site surgery and prevent it," he concluded.
Dr. Etzkorn and his coauthor reported having no relevant financial disclosures.
Caption: DR. ETZKORN
Please note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.