Mohs Surgery

Our expert Mohs surgical staff will be able to answer all your questions regarding Mohs surgery and make you at ease during this highly effective state-of-the-art dermatology procedure.


What is Mohs Surgery?

Mohs Surgery is a specialized technique for removing certain types of skin cancers. Dr. Frederic Mohs began performing the procedure in the 1930’s. The procedure has been continuously refined over the past 70 years and it is now an outpatient procedure performed under local anesthesia.

After the tumor and surrounding skin have been completely numbed, the visible portion of the tumor is surgically removed. The tissue is then taken to our laboratory and processed where the physician uses a microscope to see if any cancer cells remain. If no cancer cells are seen, the surgeon will repair the wound with stitches (or allow the wound to heal if stitches are not needed.) If any cancer cells have been left behind, the surgeon will go back and remove additional tissue. This process is repeated as many times as necessary to ensure complete removal of the tumor.


What are the advantages of Mohs Surgery?

There are two primary advantages. First, by using the microscope to examine the tissue, the surgeon is better able to ensure that all cancer cells have been removed. In fact, this procedure has the highest cure rate of all skin cancer treatments. Second, because only cancerous tissue is removed, normal, healthy skin is preserved keeping the defect or “hole” as small as possible. This facilitates a more elegant reconstruction


What is Skin Cancer?

The most common skin cancers are basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. There are well over 1 million new skin cancers in this country each year. Fortunately, these two cancers do not usually spread to other areas of the body and are rarely life-threatening. However, they can be locally aggressive, meaning they can invade and infiltrate large areas of normal tissue.


How long will the surgery last?

The length of the surgery depends on the extent of the skin cancer, but usually takes between 2 to 4 hours. Occasionally surgery is more lengthy, so we ask that you come prepared to spend the day. Much of the time will be spent waiting for the tissue to be processed in the lab. Bring reading material and whatever else will help keep you comfortable while you are with us.


Will I have stitches following the surgery?

Many, but not all wounds, require stitches for optimal healing. Our goal is to give you the best cosmetic and functional result possible. Some wounds require more complicated procedures such as “flaps” or “grafts” while others do best if left to heal on their own. Your doctor will recommend the best option following removal of the tumor.


Will I have a scar after the surgery?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “scarless” surgery. However, we are trained in facial reconstruction and our goal is to make your scar as undetectable as possible. The size of the scar often depends on the size of the tumor.


Will I be put to sleep for the surgery?

No. The surgery is well-tolerated with local anesthesia. Because the surgery may take several hours, the risk of prolonged general anesthesia is avoided.


Should I bring someone with me?

Yes. Surgery anywhere on the face can often lead to temporary swelling around the eyes making it difficult to see. Additionally, a 24 hour pressure dressing will be placed over the surgical site which can sometimes make it difficult for glasses to rest properly. Out of concern for your safety, we ask that you bring a driver with you or make arrangements for someone to pick you up.


Should I take my regular medications onthe morning of the surgery?

Yes. Take all your regular medications as they have been prescribed by your doctor unless we specifically tell you otherwise prior to surgery.


Should I eat before surgery?

Yes. Unless specifically told otherwise, you may eat a normal meal prior to surgery.  It is also a good idea to bring snacks as you may be in the office for several hours.


Are there any medications I should discontinue prior to surgery?

Continue taking all your prescribed medications unless otherwise directed by us in advance. In general, we do not recommend that you stop taking any blood thinners such as aspirin, Coumadin or Plavix. If there are special circumstances where these need to be stopped, we will notify you.


Will my activity be limited after surgery?

Yes. Physical activity, including sports and exercise, are often restricted following the surgery. If your job requires heavy lifting or physical exertion, you may need to plan to be off for a few days. Your doctor will give you specific instructions at the time of surgery.


Will I have much pain after the surgery?

Most people have surprisingly little pain after the surgery. Typically, the first 24 hours are the most uncomfortable. We recommend that you have extra strength Tylenol available, but do not recommend taking Advil, Motrin or Aleve.