History of Mohs Surgery

Mohs surgery is a procedure used to treat skin cancer. The operation gets its name from Frederick E. Mohs, M.D., who received the idea of manipulating tissue to treat cancer as a student under his mentor, Dr. Michael Guyer from 1929-1934.

Guyer was a zoology professor who was knowledgeable of the idea of frozen tissue for microscopic slides. The instructor even wrote a book that explained the process of harvesting tissue for microscopic examination. It is from Dr. Guyer’s research and information, as provided in his book, that Mohs received the idea of mapping out cancer around the nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and bones.

Dr. Mohs had been conducting microscopic procedures for 13 years in his office when he stumbled upon a revolutionary way to treat cancer in 1953. The medical doctor accidentally performed a fresh tissue excision on a patient’s lower eyelid that rendered excellent results. From that point on, Mohs abandoned old frozen tissue for freshly preserved samples when performing eyelid operations. The medical doctor soon expanded his discovery to certain cancers in discrete locations on the body using the same technique.

Dr. Theodore Tromivitch’s paper, which detailed microscopically controlled excisions, gave Mohs additional firepower to delve further into the notion of using fresh tissue for cancer treatment. The medical doctor and his colleagues in the field were using the method of care almost exclusively by the late 1960s. The name of the procedure, which was known as Chemosurgery, was changed to Mohs Micrographic Surgery by the 1970s.

Another change in the field during the 1970s had to do with technology. Machines known as cryostats were developed to assist in freezing live tissue for examination. Automatic tissue staining machines came to the field during the 1980s.

Numerous other improvements have taken place to drive Mohs surgery forward in recent decades. In all of the alterations, Dr. Mohs’ signature color-coded mapping remains the same.

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