Surgical dermatology is a branch of dermatology that aims to treat and improve medical conditions of the skin, although surgical dermatology can also include cosmetic procedures. Dermatologic surgical procedures are designed to repair or improve the skin tissue’s function as well as treat conditions of the veins, nails and mucous membranes.
Surgical dermatology can include treatment of skin cancers – both benign and malignant – procedures for sun-damaged or aging skin, and cosmetic treatments to improve the appearance of skin.
Surgical dermatology procedures use traditional scalpel surgical techniques as well as laser surgery, electrosurgery, which uses a high-frequency electric current to heat and cut tissue with great precision, and cryosurgery, which involves the local application of extreme cold to destroy unwanted tissue.
Other surgical dermatology procedures include liposuction, eyelid repair (blepharoplasty) and earlobe repair. With new advances in technology, liposuction is usually an outpatient procedure that is done using only local anesthesia and promises minimal downtime and a fast recovery. Most blepharoplasty surgeries, which do away with sagging upper eyelids and puffy bags under the eyes, also are in-office procedures that require only local anesthesia and minimal recovery time. Earlobe surgeries repair lobes that have been torn, stretched or deformed, either due to ear piercing or other accidents.
Dermatologic surgeons also perform Mohs micrographic surgery for precise removal of cancerous skin growths while preserving as much of the healthy surrounding skin tissue as possible. The specialized Mohs technique uses a microscope for precise removal of cancerous tissue and is most often used for cancers on sensitive areas – such as the nose, eyelids, and lips – where it’s crucial to preserve as much tissue as possible.
Surgical dermatology can also include other minimally invasive procedures such as subcision, which is often used to treat scar tissue. Doctors use a probe to separate scar tissue from normal skin, and they sometimes inject filler between the scar tissue and the healthy tissue. Doing so helps elevate the scarred area so it’s level with the rest of the surrounding skin.