What is the role of surgery in the treatment of seborrheic keratosis?

Updated: Oct 14, 2020
  • Author: Arthur K Balin, MD, PhD, FACP; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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A variety of techniques may be used to treat seborrheic keratoses. They include cryotherapy with carbon dioxide (dry ice) or liquid nitrogen, electrodesiccation, electrodesiccation and curettage, curettage alone, shave biopsy or excision using a scalpel, or a laser or dermabrasion surgery. Some of these techniques destroy the lesion without providing a specimen for histopathologic diagnosis.

The shave biopsy provides histologic material for accurate diagnosis and removes the lesion in a cosmetically acceptable manner at the same time. After a shave biopsy is obtained, a curette can be employed to smooth and remove any remaining keratotic material. Generally, this is the author's preferred method of removal.

If a biopsy is not desired, light electrodesiccation facilitates a sharp curettage.

Freezing seborrheic keratoses with dry ice or liquid nitrogen avoids the need for surgical excision; however, complications of freezing include pigmentary changes and on occasion, scarring.

Curettage in conjunction with liquid nitrogen generally gives better results than liquid nitrogen alone.

Application of 70% glycolic acid for 3-5 minutes prior to curetting also is effective.

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