UMass Chan Medical School Faculty Publications


Avoiding Medical Errors in Cutaneous Site Identification: A Best Practices Review

UMMS Affiliation

Division of Dermatology, Department of Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type





BACKGROUND: Although the field of dermatology has a relatively low incidence of medical errors, dermatologic surgery is a major area where medical errors occur.

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this article is to catalog the many cutaneous site identification techniques used by practitioners and determine which techniques are most evidence based.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: A comprehensive literature review of cutaneous surgical site identification techniques and medical errors in dermatology.

RESULTS: Wrong-site surgery often occurs because of an inability to identify the surgical site because of factors such as inadequate documentation from referring physicians, well-healed scars obscuring the biopsy site, and a patient's inability to visualize the surgical site. Practitioners use techniques such as photography, dermabrasion, written descriptions using anatomic landmarks, and site identification protocols for surgical site identification.

CONCLUSION: Site identification remains a challenge for dermatologists and is a leading cause of medical errors in this field. Patients are often unreliable in their ability to identify biopsy sites; therefore, practitioners must take a proactive role to ensure that medical errors do not occur. This article provides a thorough description and evaluation of current site identification techniques used in dermatology with the aim to improve quality of care and reduce medical errors.

DOI of Published Version



Dermatol Surg. 2016 Apr;42(4):477-84. doi: 10.1097/DSS.0000000000000683. Link to article on publisher's site

Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Dermatologic surgery : official publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et al.]

PubMed ID