Raised moles, skin tags and other lumps can be removed quickly with minimal scarring using radiofrequency surgery.
Skin lesions and lumps suitable for radiofrequency surgery
Most raised skin moles, tags and plaques can be removed with minimal scarring using radiofrequency surgery. Radiosurgery technology allows precise shaving of raised lesions, which usually leaves less scarring than other methods of mole removal (including plastic surgery) for removing raised moles and other skin lesions (Chan, 2020).
Suitable raised lesions include:
- Raised dermal moles
- Seborrhoeic keratoses
- Fibrous papules
- Skin tags
- Sebaceous gland hyperplasia
Radiofrequency surgery is suitable for moles and other skin lumps anywhere on the body, but particularly on the face, where a low-scarring cosmetic outcome is more important.
It is not suitable for treating warts, or in cases where the lesion is not raised such as flat pigmented moles or suspected melanoma.
If you are unsure whether your mole, lump or skin lesion is suitable, you can send us a photo. A doctor will review the photo and we will contact you to arrange an appointment if your mole is suitable.
What is radiofrequency surgery?
Radiofrequency surgery, also called RF or radiosurgery, is the application of ultra-high frequency electrical current (radio waves) to the skin (Pfenninger 2010). Radio waves are generated by a device called the Ellman Surgitron, and applied to the skin using a specially-shaped electrode. The shape is selected depending on the procedure being performed.
Radio waves cause water molecules in cells to vibrate, which generates heat, and the water turns to steam. This causes cutting or coagulation (clotting) of the skin cells and blood vessels. (Niamtu 2014).
In the radiosurgery procedure, the mole or skin lesion is:
- Physically removed using a shaving motion, and/or
- Destroyed by heat (a process known as ablation).
Benefits of radiosurgery
Radiosurgery is better than other procedures for the cosmetic, low-scarring removal of raised moles and skin lesions for several reasons:
- Superior control in precisely shaving off the skin lesion
- Less scarring than other methods due to less transfer of heat/burning surrounding tissues
- Less pain and swelling, quicker recovery
- Less bleeding during and after procedure (Bridenstine 1998, Niamtu 2014)
Results of radiosurgery mole removal
In most cases, the result is flat skin at the site of the mole, sometimes with a subtle difference in colour from the surrounding skin.
Photographs provided by Cynosure Australia
Your mole removal consultation
Before a mole or other skin lump is removed, a doctor must check to ensure that cosmetic removal is suitable.
This consultation normally only takes a few minutes. The doctor will examine your mole or lump using a dermoscope. This is a skin imaging instrument which magnifies and lights the mole or lump with a polarised light, allowing your doctor to detect small structures and diagnose it and decide whether cosmetic removal is appropriate.
Your mole or spot will be photographed, and the photo will be stored in MoleScope, a medical record shared between you and your doctor. You will be able to view photos of your mole, pathology results if we perform a biopsy, and information about how to manage your wound following the procedure.
You can download the MoleScope app to take your own photos after your procedure to compare your appearance before and after your mole removal.
The procedure is performed while you lie on a bed. If the mole to be removed is located near your eyes, we may put some padding over them.
The doctor will usually inject a small amount of local anaesthetic into the skin around your mole. This stings for a few seconds, and then leaves the skin feeing numb for several hours. When the local anaesthetic takes effect, you should not be able to feel any pain or burning. For very small skin lesions such as some angiomas, local anaesthetic may not be necessary because the procedure is very quick.
The doctor may perform a biopsy procedure from your mole or lump. This means removing the top part by shaving it off. The shaved-off tissue from your mole will be sent to a laboratory to be examined microscopically by a skin pathologist to confirm the diagnosis. Pathology results are usually available 3-4 days after the procedure. If the spot is diagnosed as a skin cancer, further treatment will be required after the cosmetic removal.
After shaving off the top part of the spot, the base is treated using radiofrequency, which gently removes remaining tissue. Because this process generates heat, you may be able to smell smoke from vapourised tissue. An exhaust fan will be placed over the procedure area to minimise the smell.
Treatment of the mole is usually complete in a couple of minutes.
Depending on the location, your wound will be dressed with a plastic film, a small Band-Aid, or a spray-on film dressing.
If there is a dressing or Band-Aid over the wound, leave it in place for 2-3 days. Keep the wound dry during this time.
After 2-3 days, remove the dressing. To achieve the best possible result after the procedure, the wound should not be allowed to dry out or develop a crust. We recommend applying StrataMed silicone gel to the wound daily for up to 3 months.
What to expect in the post-procedure period
Immediately following surgery, there is usually a slightly indented area with a pale tan base.
For several months after surgery, the treated area will appear pink, This is a normal phase of wound healing. The duration varies; for some people the pink colour persists for more than a year.
Complications and side effects
Problems following radiofrequency mole removal are uncommon.
The most likely is re-growth of the mole. This happens about in about 10 per cent of cases, usually because the doctor has been careful not to remove the mole too deeply. If this happens, the mole can usually be removed successfully with a second treatment.
Changes in pigmentation (i.e. darkening or fading of the skin) can sometimes occur at the mole removal site. This is more common in people with darker skin.
Rare problems include:
- Slow healing
These are all less common following radiosurgery than other surgical mole removal techniques.
Radiosurgery should not be performed if you have a cardiac pacemaker or defibrillator.
See our Services and pricing page for details. (Under the service Cosmetic removal of mole or skin lesion with radiosurgery).
- Bosniak, Stephen, Cantisano-Zikha, Marian. 2001. Radio-surgery: A 25 year history of scarless mole removal. Operative techniques in oculoplastic, orbital and reconstructive surgery. 2001, Vol 4 (2), p109-112 http://radiosurgery.com/PDF/publications/Surgical/25%20Year%20Scarless%20Mole%20Removal.pdf (Accessed 21 December 2020)
- Bridenstine, James B, 1998. Use of ultra-high frequency electrosurgery (radiosurgery) for cosmetic surgical procedures. Dermatologic surgery, 1998-03, Vol.24 (3), p.397-400 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1524-4725.1998.tb04175.x (Accessed 21 December 2020)
- Chan, Ben, 2020. Surgical aesthetics and skin cancer using radiowave surgery webinar with Cynosure. Available at https://youtu.be/e_f3HyojBkw (Accessed 18 December 2020)
- Niamtu, Joseph, 2007. Radiowave surgery to remove moles. Aesthetic dermatology news, 2007 March/April, p10-11 https://www.lovethatface.com/files/2013/04/Ellman_Cos_Derm_4072.pdf (accessed 21 December 2020)
- Niamtu, Joseph, 2003. 4.0 MHz radio wave applications in cosmetic facial surgery. Cosmetic dermatology, 2003 vol 16 (11), p33-46 https://www.ellman.de/fileadmin/ellman/inhalte/downloads/aethtetische-plastische-chirurgie/4.0_Cosmetic_Facial_Surgery_niamtu.pdf (Accessed 21 December 2020)
- Niamtu, Joseph, 2014. Esthetic removal of head and neck nevi and lesions with 4.0 MHz radio wave surgery: a 30-year experience. Journal of oral and maxillofacial surgery, 2014. Vol 72. p1139-1150. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.joms.2013.10.015 (Accessed 21 December 2020)
- Pfenninger, John & DeWitt, Donald, Radiofrequency surgery (modern electrosurgery). In Pfenninger and Fowler’s procedures for primary care. Elsevier, 2010. Chapter 31, p213-224
- Sachdeva S, Dogra A. Radiofrequency ablation in dermatology. Indian J Dermatol 2007;52:134-7. Available from: https://www.e-ijd.org/text.asp?2007/52/3/134/35091 (Accessed 21 December 2020)