Mohs Surgery

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Cancer 101: Cancer Explained

Why is the procedure called Mohs?

Mohs is named after its inventor, Dr. Frederic Mohs, who first described the technique in 1941. He originally used fixed stained tissue and patients were frequently required to spend more than one day for successful treatment. The technique of removing horizontal pieces of tissue from the deepest portion of the specimen while at the same time visualizing the outside edges of the tumor in the same block of tissue is unique.

Basal cell carcinoma on the neck
Picture of a basal cell carcinoma on the neck
Site after the tumor roots were cleared
Picture of the site after the tumor cells were cleared
Post-op closure of the wound with sutures
Picture of a post-op closure of the wound with sutures

Where can I have Mohs surgery, and how long does the surgery take?

Mohs micrographic surgery is usually performed in an outpatient setting like a doctor's office and under local anesthetic (lidocaine). Sometimes the procedure may be performed in an outpatient surgical center with the assistance of an anesthesiologist. Rarely, it is performed in an inpatient hospital setting.

You are generally in the medical office for several hours on the day of your Mohs procedure. Depending on how large or difficult your skin cancer is, more than a single level may be required to achieve clearance. MMS requires your patience and your doctor's careful effort and skill. It is not always possible to predict ahead of time how many hours your specific procedure will take. Most patients leave their day's schedule open to allow for adequate time to complete their Mohs procedures.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/3/2016

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