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Summary

Background

Although various assessments pertaining to the surgical aspect of Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) have been performed, the pivotal role played by the MMS histotechnician (MH) has not previously been addressed in the UK.

Aim

To undertake a review of the training and practice of MHs in all centres performing MMS within the National Health Service (NHS) in the UK.

Methods

NHS dermatology departments performing MMS in the UK were identified and contacted by telephone between November 2011 and January 2012. MMS practice data pertaining to the role of the MH in tissue processing was collected by speaking directly to a histotechnician in each department.

Results

In total, 29 centres were identified. The number of MHs at each centre varied from 1 to 13 (median 3). All MHs had undergraduate degrees in biomedical science. Most (85%) MHs worked full-time under the directorate of their local pathology department. In 19 centres (66%), the Mohs surgeon reviewed the slides, and in the remaining 10 centres (34%), a consultant histopathologist reviewed the slides, either alone or in partnership with the Mohs surgeon. There was significant variation in tissue handling and processing techniques across the centres. All centres used MMS to treat primarily high-risk basal cell carcinomas, with over half (55%) also treating squamous cell carcinomas. MHs from all centres had learned about the specifics of MMS tissue processing ‘on the job’, with a minority having received formal training by attending a larger MMS centre or an MMS course.

Conclusions

Significant variation in MMS tissue-processing techniques exists across the UK. A standard of practice should perhaps be considered, as this has risk-management, quality-control and possible medicolegal implications.