According to a recent study, there is great variation from one Mohs’ surgeon to another when having Mohs’ surgery. In this study, they found that the mean number of stages per case was 1.47 (range, 1.09-4.11). The variation in range is huge!!! Thirty-five percent of surgeons were persistent outliers (performed more stages than the mean) in all three years of this study. Physicians in solo practice had a 2.35-times likelihood of a persistent high outlier status (OR = 2.35; 95% CI, 1.25-4.35). Now this does not make sense! Think about it, often the most difficult cases are referred to tertiary care centers (academic institutions), yet they were more likely to clear a patient in fewer stages.
Why the great variation? In an academic center, there are residents and fellows assisting on cases. What does that mean for patients? There is less risk for “funny business”–surgeons intentionally taking smaller pieces so that they they will require more stages (in a fee-for-service model, the surgeon is paid for each stage taken).
In my practice, approximately 80% of patients are cleared within the first stage. This falls well within the mean average of 1.47 average stages per patient. Unfortunately, many surgeons fall outside of this mean. This increases cost, may adversely affect cosmetic outcome, increases surgical time for patients, and may lead to increased patient discomfort as additional anesthetic may be needed.
How do you choose a Mohs’ surgeon? That is a difficult question. According to this study, a Mohs’ surgeon in Private Practice is more likely to perform more layers than is necessary than a surgeon who is a full-time academic surgeon. That being said, I know of great surgeons who are in private practice and many who rarely clear a patient in one stage. In fact, some of the best surgeons are in private practice.
What do I recommend? When choosing a Mohs’ Surgeon, one must be more cautious when choosing one who is in Private Practice. In my over 2 decades of performing Mohs’, I can count on one hand how many patients during the initial consultation have asked me what the likelihood of clearing them on the first stage is.