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Prospective study of long-term patient perceptions of their skin cancer surgery

Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.jaad.2007.02.006
  • Medicine


Background We identified factors that influence patient perceptions of their skin cancer surgery through a prospective study of patients referred to a single surgeon during 18 months. Method Patients having surgery resulting in a wound sutured and dressed were surveyed 6 to 9 months later. Monitoring for complaints continued for 3 years. Results In all, 74% of patients returned the survey (576 of 778). A total of 250 (43%) rated their scar excellent, 177 (31%) very good, 72 (12.5%) good, 40 fair (6.9%), and 14 (2.4%) poor or very poor. Age, sex, diagnosis, or closure method did not result in a variation in scar perception. In all, 27.3% of scars (21/77) on the trunk were rated neutral or negative compared with 6.9% (33/476) of scars elsewhere ( P < .001) and only 5% (15/305) of head and neck scars ( P < .001). Complications did not change scar or overall evaluation ratings. In all, 393 patients (68%) rated the overall service excellent, 145 (25%) very good, 22 (4%) good, and 3 (0.5%) fair. No patient rated the service poor or very poor. Patients rating the service lower were most dissatisfied with scar appearance, time waiting before surgery, pain from the local anesthetic, nursing care, follow-up care, cost, and written material. In all, 99% of patients who rated their scar very good or excellent rated the overall service optimally, compared with only 85% of patients who rated their scar as good or worse. Limitations A single experienced surgeon in a southern Australia locale might not reflect the perceptions in other clinicians and locations. Conclusion Complications and patient complaints do not identify patient dissatisfaction from cutaneous surgery. The patients' perception of their scars markedly influences their overall service perception. Patients experienced more dissatisfaction with repairs on the trunk.

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