Changing Dermatopathology Protocols for Processing Small Skin Biopsies: Decreases in Slide Quantity Does Not Affect Patient Care and Allows for Optimal Efficiency

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In dermatopathology, no standard protocol exists for processing small biopsy specimens. In our original protocol, 2 routine initial slides per biopsy were prepared. For 1003 biopsies, we noted how often the second slide helped in diagnosis or eliminated the need for additional deeper sections. After obtaining these data, we switched to processing only 1 initial slide (new protocol) and again evaluated 1003 biopsies. During the original protocol, the second slide never helped to make a diagnosis that was not apparent on the first slide. When deeper sections were ordered (10.4% of cases), they helped in the diagnosis 34.6% of the time. In the new protocol, deeper sections were ordered in 15.9% of cases and helped in the diagnosis 32.7% of the time when ordered. Comparing rates of deeper sections ordered showed no significant difference for benign, inflammatory/reactive, and premalignant/malignant groups (P > 0.1). However, there was a significant increase in deeper sections ordered for melanocytic lesions from 16.9% to 32.3% (P < 0.05). Also, a significantly greater percentage of punch biopsies (31.5% and 42.0% in the respective protocols) required deeper sections than shave biopsies (7.4% and 12.6% in the respective protocols). Switching protocols, the estimated annual cost savings is $2890. The majority of cases at our institution are properly diagnosed using only 1 slide. From our study findings, we conclude that 1 slide preparation for small biopsies is the best practice for our institution and one that does not affect diagnostic accuracy, reduces costs, and helps in effective time management.

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