Latest advances in confocal microscopy of skin cancers toward guiding patient care: a Mohs surgeon’s review and perspective
About 350 publications worldwide have reported the ability of reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) imaging to detect melanocytic skin lesions in vivo with specificity of 84-88% and sensitivity of 71-92%, and non-melanocytic skin lesions with specificity of 85-97% and sensitivity 100-92%. Lentigo maligna melanoma can be detected with sensitivity of 93% and specificity 82%. While the sensitivity is comparable to that of dermoscopy, the specificity is 2X superior, especially for lightly- and non-pigmented lesions. Dermoscopy combined with RCM imaging is proving to be both highly sensitive and highly specific. Recent studies have reported that the ratio of equivocal (i.e., would have been biopsied) lesions to detected melanomas dropped by ~2X when guided by dermoscopy and RCM imaging, compared to that with dermoscopy alone. Dermoscopy combined with RCM imaging is now being implemented to guide noninvasive diagnosis (to rule out malignancy and biopsy) and to also guide treatment, with promising initial impact: thus far, about 3,000 patients have been saved from biopsies of benign lesions. These are currently under follow-up monitoring. With fluorescence confocal microscopy (FCM) mosaicing, residual basal cell carcinomas can be detected in Mohs surgically excised fresh tissue ex vivo, with sensitivity of 94-97% and specificity 89-94%. FCM mosaicing is now being implemented for guiding Mohs surgery. To date, about 600 Mohs procedures have been performed, guided with mosaicing, and with pathology being performed in parallel to confirm the final outcome. These latest advances demonstrate the promising ability of RCM and FCM to guide patient care.