ORLANDO – Some is to focus on those within a surgeon’s control, Robert H. Gotkin, MD, said at the ODAC Dermatology, Aesthetic, & Surgical Conference.
“Patients often judge the surgeon by the appearance of the scar. Not fair, but that’s what happens,” said, director of plastic surgery at a private practice in Greenvale, N.Y.
What’s in a surgeon’s control? An accurate diagnosis, operating plan, knowledge of relevant anatomy, surgical technique, and tools for managing and modulating scars, he noted. Achieving a good cosmetic outcome starts before surgery with proper surgical planning, which includes a backup plan on “how to get out of trouble.” Visualize the ideal outcome of surgery in three dimensions, and know the relevant anatomy to help with surgical marking, as well as relevant muscular and vascular anatomy, and motor nerve danger zones, he advised. When performing facial reconstruction, reconstruct defects using the cosmetic units of the face, and place scars at the borders of cosmetic units, if possible, he said.
An order of priorities during surgery is also important. In the same way a vending machine that spits out ingredients to make a coffee in the wrong order will not result in a cup of coffee, he said, the surgical plan must be in an order that makes sense.
Tension is “one of the greatest enemies in surgery,” Dr. Gotkin said. Too much tension on a closure, for example, can cut off the blood supply and result in tissue ischemia, which could result in infection and dehiscence. It’s important to know one’s limitations during surgery and when in doubt, not to perform the surgery, he added. “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow, because a lot of things heal and get better on their own,” he said.
Tools for good surgical outcome
A surgeon performing dermatologic procedures needs an operating room with good lighting, and a set of sharp surgical instruments. Use needle holders that do not lock, and handle needles with instruments instead of your fingers to hold the needles with just the right amount of tension, Dr. Gotkin said.
“There is no question” that palming a needle holder should not be done, he added. “Granted, this is a little dogmatic, but there is no use for palming a needle holder in surgery. It makes you much less accurate.”
Suture material is another important consideration. Surgeons have their pick of braided or monofilament sutures available in absorbable and nonabsorbable material. Absorbable sutures are made with synthetic materials such as polyglactin 910 (Vicryl), poliglecaprone 25 (Monocryl) and polydioxanone (PDS), while nonabsorbable sutures include those manufactured with polypropylene (Prolene). Nonabsorbable suture materials made of polyester and stainless steel exist, but are not commonly used in dermatologic surgery, he said.
The most common needles Dr. Gotkin uses in his practice are the Ethicon P-3, P-1, PS-2, and PS-6 types for precision point reverse cutting, and the PC-1 and PC-3 types for precision cosmetic procedures. Other needles that have similar shapes are marketed under different names, he noted. For local anesthesia, surgeons can use either lidocaine hydrochloride with epinephrine, 1% (1:100,000 u) for a rapid-onset, short-acting effect, or bupivacaine hydrochloride with epinephrine, 0.5% (1:200,000 u) for a slower-onset, long-acting effect. Dr. Gotkin recommends using a combination of both in a half-half mixture (1:150,000 epinephrine) with a buffer of sodium bicarbonate since both are acidic. Instead of stretching the skin before inserting the needle, he advised pinching or rubbing the skin to distract the patient from the injection instead of stretching the skin. Small gauge needles (such as 30-gauge or 27-gauge) are best for administering local anesthetic, he said.