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Frequency of use of suturing and repair techniques preferred by dermatologic surgeons.

BACKGROUND: There are many closure techniques and suture types available to cutaneous surgeons. Evidence-based data are not available regarding the frequency of use of these techniques by experienced practitioners.

OBJECTIVE: To quantify, by anatomic site, the frequency of use of common closure techniques and suture types by cutaneous surgeons.

METHOD: A prospective survey of the members of the Association of Academic Dermatologic Surgeons that used length-calibrated visual-analog scales to elicit the frequency of use of specific suture techniques.

RESULTS: A response rate of 60% (61/101) indicated reliability of the received data. Epidermal layers were closed most often, in descending order, by simple interrupted sutures (38-50%), simple running sutures (37-42%), and vertical mattress sutures (3-8%), with subcuticular sutures used more often on the trunk and extremities (28%). The most commonly used superficial sutures were nylon (51%) and polypropylene (44%), and the most common absorbable suture was polyglactin 910 (73%). Bilayered closures, undermining, and electrocoagulation were used, on average, in 90% or more sutured repairs. The median diameters (defined as longest extent along any axis) of most final wound defects were 1.1 to 2.0 cm (56%) or 2.1 to 3.0 cm (37%). Fifty-four percent of wounds were repaired by primary closure, 20% with local flaps, and 10% with skin grafting, with the remaining 15% left to heal by second intent (10%) or referred for repair (5%). Experience-related differences were detected in defect size and closure technique: defects less than 2 cm in diameter were seen by less experienced surgeons, and defects greater than 2 cm by more experienced surgeons (Wilcoxon's rank-sum test: p=.02). But more experienced surgeons were less likely to use bilayered closures (r=-0.28, p=.036) and undermining (r=-0.28, p=.035).

CONCLUSIONS: There is widespread consensus among cutaneous surgeons regarding optimal suture selection and closure technique by anatomic location. More experienced surgeons tend to repair larger defects but, possibly because of their increased confidence and skill, rely on less complicated repairs.

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