Routine Pathologic Evaluation of Plastic Surgery Specimens: Are We Wasting Time and Money?

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Background:Recent health care changes have encouraged efforts to decrease costs. In plastic surgery, an area of potential cost savings includes appropriate use of pathologic examination. Specimens are frequently sent because of hospital policy, insurance request, or habit, even when clinically unnecessary. This is an area where evidence-based guidelines are lacking and significant cost-savings can be achieved.Methods:All specimen submitted for pathologic examination at two hospitals between January and December of 2015 were queried for tissue expanders, breast implants, fat, skin, abdominal pannus, implant capsule, hardware, rib, bone, cartilage, scar, and keloid. Specimens not related to plastic surgery procedures were excluded. Pathologic diagnosis and cost data were obtained.Results:A total of 759 specimens were identified. Of these, 161 were sent with a specific request for gross examination only. There were no clinically significant findings in any of the specimens. There was one incidental finding of a seborrheic keratosis on breast skin. The total amount billed in 2015 was $430,095.Conclusions:The infrequency of clinically significant pathologic examination results does not support routine pathologic examination of all plastic surgery specimens. Instead, the authors justify select submission only when there is clinical suspicion or medical history that warrants evaluation. By eliminating unnecessary histologic or macroscopic examination, significant cost savings may be achieved.

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