Background: The aim of this study was to assess clinical and histologic features of primary basal cell carcinomas of the periocular region and to calculate the rate of recurrence of these tumors after surgical excision without intraoperative frozen section control.
Methods: All primary basal cell carcinomas of the periocular region which were treated by surgical excision at the University Eye Hospital and Clinic of Ulm between 1993 and 1998 were reviewed and special attention was paid to age and sex of the patient and localization and histology of the tumor. The recurrence rates were calculated depending on whether the margins were free or involved on histologic examination of the excised specimens.
Results: We could include 137 patients with 141 tumors into this study. In 92 patients with 95 tumors, follow-up data of at least 3 months was available with a mean follow-up period of 31.3 months. The mean age of the patients was 68.9 years, range 28.7-91.3 years. The tumor was located at the lower eyelid, medial canthus, upper eyelid and lateral canthus in 63.1%, 29.8%, 5.7% and 1.4%, respectively. The solid (53.9%) and the solid-cystic (17.7%) type were the most common encountered histology followed by the mixed type with sclerosing foci (12.1%) and the morphea or sclerosing type (10.6%). A free margin on histologic examination was achieved in only 47.6% of cases. The overall recurrence rate was 9.5% [definite recurrences: 6 cases (6.3%); questionable recurrences: 3 cases (3.2%)]. With histologically complete excision the recurrence rate was only 2.3% (1 case) and in the case of an incomplete excision definite recurrent tumors were observed in 11.8% (6 cases) and questionable recurrences in 3.9% (2 cases) of cases during the follow-up period.
Conclusions: Surgical excision of basal cell carcinomas of the periocular region without utilizing intraoperative frozen section control or Mohs' micrographic surgery is associated with a high rate of positive tumor margin on histologic examination. However, our study showed that this is only infrequently followed by local recurrences. This result may raise the question whether simple surgical excision is still an option in the case that more cumbersome methods such as Mohs' micrographic surgery or intraoperative frozen section control are not available. However, with positive tumor margin on histologic examination of the excised tissue or with the presence of a sclerosing type regular follow-up is mandatory.