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.

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What areas are treatable by Mohs surgery?

Mohs is used primarily for the treatment of head and neck basal and squamous cell skin cancers. It is particularly useful for skin cancers in difficult areas such as nose, lips, and ears.

It is also used on hands and feet where there is not a lot of extra tissue for bigger surgical removals. Mohs is very effective for the treatment of recurrent tumors (tumors that were previously removed and have regrown at the same site). However, depending on the specific patient and tumor type, any area of the body may be treated by Mohs surgery.

What are possible complications of Mohs?

As with any surgery or procedure, Mohs is associated with possible risks and complications. While it is overall a very safe and effective surgical treatment, there are some possible uncommon complications. Since a scar forms anytime you cut the skin, most patients understand and can expect some type of a scar after skin-cancer removal.

Possible risks and complications of Mohs include (but are not limited to) bleeding, bruising, wound infection, pain, unsightly scar, keloid (raised, thick scar), cosmetic disfigurement, skin discoloration, nerve damage, allergic reactions, pain, reaction to local anesthesia, wound opening (dehiscence) and splitting or retained stitches, cancer recurrence, need for further surgery or treatment including radiation or plastic surgery, and very rarely death.

Minor, serious, or life-threatening reactions can occur with the use of anesthetics or with medications given before, after, or during surgery. Nerves controlling muscle movement, sensation, or other functions may be damaged. This nerve damage may be permanent. Overall, most patients tolerate the surgery very well without any complications.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/8/2015
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