Study Identifies Risk Factors for Mohs Surgery–Related Anxiety

Doug Brunk

December 06, 2022

Among adults undergoing Mohs micrographic surgery, individuals most prone to preprocedural anxiety were younger, female, and those with a history of anxiety confirmed by a health care provider (HCP), results from a single-center survey demonstrated.

“Higher patient-reported anxiety in hospital settings is significantly linked to lower patient satisfaction with the quality of care and higher patient-reported postoperative pain,” corresponding author Ally-Khan Somani, MD, PhD, and colleagues wrote in the study, which was published online in Dermatologic Surgery. “Identifying factors associated with perioperative patient anxiety could improve outcomes and patient satisfaction.”

Somani, director of dermatologic surgery and cutaneous oncology in the department of dermatology at the University of Indiana, Indianapolis, and coauthors surveyed 145 patients who underwent Mohs micrographic surgery (MMS) at the university from February 2018 to March 2020. They collected patient self-reported demographics, medical history, and administered a 10-point visual analog scale assessment of anxiety at multiple stages. They also sought HCP-perceived assessments of anxiety and used a stepwise regression mode to explore factors that potentially contributed to anxiety outcomes. The mean age of the 145 patients was 63 years, 60% were female, and 77% had no self-reported anxiety confirmed by a prior HCP’s diagnosis.

Two-thirds of patients (66%) received a pre-MMS consultation with the surgeon, 59% had a history of skin cancer removal surgery, and 86% had 1-2 layers removed during the current MMS.

Prior to MMS, the researchers found that significant risk factors for increased anxiety included younger age, female sex, and self-reported history of anxiety confirmed by an HCP (< .05), while intraoperatively, HCP-perceived patient anxiety increased with younger patient age and more layers removed. Following MMS, patient anxiety increased significantly with more layers removed and higher self-reported preoperative anxiety levels. “Although existing research is divided regarding the efficacy of pre-MMS consultation for anxiety reduction, these findings suggest that patient-reported and HCP-perceived anxiety were not significantly affected by in-person pre-MMS consultation with the surgeon,” Somani and colleagues wrote. “Thus, routinely recommending consultations may not be the best approach for improving anxiety outcomes.”

They acknowledged certain limitations of their analysis, including its single-center design, enrollment of demographically similar patients, and the fact that no objective measurements of anxiety such as heart rate or blood pressure were taken.

“One of the main benefits of Mohs surgery is that we are able to operate under local anesthesia, but this also means that our patients are acutely aware of everything going on around them,” said Patricia M. Richey, MD, who practices Mohs surgery and cosmetic dermatology in Washington, D.C., and was asked to comment on the study.

“I think it is so important that this study is primarily focusing on the patient experience,” she said. “While this study did not find that a pre-op consult impacted patient anxiety levels, I do think we can infer that it is critical to connect with your patients on some level prior to surgery, as it helps you tailor your process to make the day more tolerable for them [such as] playing music, determining the need for an oral anxiolytic, etc.”

Neither the researchers nor Richey reported having financial disclosures.

This story originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.


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