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Kia āta kōwhiri Choosing Wisely

The Choosing Wisely campaign seeks to reduce harm from unnecessary and low-value tests and treatment.

New Zealand Dermatological Society

The New Zealand Dermatological Society is a not-for-profit incorporated society of more than 60 dermatologists, medical and surgical specialists in diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the skin. The NZDS is responsible for providing lifelong contin

Recommendations and resources

1) Don’t prescribe oral antifungal therapy for suspected nail fungus without confirmation of fungal infection.

About half of nails with suspected fungus do not have a fungal infection. Because other nail conditions, such as nail dystrophies, may look similar in appearance, it is important to ensure accurate diagnosis of nail disease before beginning treatment.

By confirming a fungal infection, patients are not inappropriately at risk for the side-effects of antifungal therapy, and nail disease is correctly treated.

2) Don’t perform sentinel lymph node biopsy or other diagnostic tests for the evaluation of early, thin melanoma because they do not improve survival.

Patients with early, thin melanoma, such as melanoma in situ, T1a melanoma, or T1b melanoma ≤ 0.5mm, have a very low risk of the cancer spreading to the lymph nodes or other parts of the body. Further, patients with early, thin melanoma have a 97 per cent five-year survival rate, which also indicates a low risk of the cancer spreading to other parts of the body. As such, the performance of sentinel lymph node biopsy is unnecessary.

Additionally, baseline blood tests and radiographic studies (e.g. chest radiographs, CT scans, and PET scans) are not the most accurate tests for the detection of cancer that is spreading because they have high false-positive rates. These tests have only shown benefit when performed as indicated for suspicious signs and symptoms based on the patient’s history and physical exam.

3) Don’t treat uncomplicated, non-melanoma skin cancer less than 1 centimetre in size on the trunk and extremities with Mohs micrographic surgery.

In healthy individuals, the use of Mohs micrographic surgery for low-risk, small (< 1cm), superficial or non-aggressive (based on appearance under a microscope) squamous cell carcinomas and basal cell carcinomas is inappropriate for skin cancers on the trunk and extremities.

In these areas of the body, the clinical benefits of this specialized surgical procedure do not exceed the potential risks. It is important to note that Mohs micrographic surgery may be considered for skin cancers that appear on the hands, feet, ankles, shins, nipples, or genitals because they have been shown to have a higher risk for recurrence or require additional surgical considerations.

4) Don’t use oral antibiotics for the treatment of atopic dermatitis unless there is clinical evidence of infection.

The presence of high numbers of the staphylococcus aureus bacteria on the skin of children and adults with atopic dermatitis is common. It is widely believed that staph bacteria may play a role in causing skin inflammation, but the routine use of oral antibiotic therapy to decrease the amount of bacteria on the skin has not been definitively shown to reduce the signs, symptoms (e.g. redness, itch), or severity of atopic dermatitis. In addition, if oral antibiotics are used when there is not an infection, it may lead to the development of antibiotic resistance.

The use of oral antibiotics can also cause side effects, including hypersensitivity reactions, or exaggerated immune responses such as allergic reactions. Although it can be difficult to determine the presence of a skin infection in atopic dermatitis patients, oral antibiotics should only be used to treat patients with evidence of bacterial infection in conjunction with other standard and appropriate treatments for atopic dermatitis.

5) Don’t routinely use topical antibiotics on a surgical wound.

The use of topical antibiotics on clean surgical wounds has not been shown to reduce the rate of infection compared to the use of non-antibiotic ointment or no ointment. Topical antibiotics can aggravate open wounds, hindering the normal wound-healing process.

When topical antibiotics are used in this setting, there is a significant risk of developing contact dermatitis, a condition in which the skin becomes red, sore, or inflamed after direct contact with a substance, along with the potential for developing antibiotic resistance. Only wounds that show symptoms of infection should receive appropriate antibiotic treatment.

Supporting evidence

Last reviewed December 2015

How was this list developed

The New Zealand Dermatological Society (NZDS) is a not-for-profit incorporated society of more than 60 dermatologists, medical and surgical specialists in diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the skin. NZDS is a small society and members convened to review possible candidates for low value clinical practices. Consequently it was agreed that the interventions previously highlighted by the American Academy of Dermatology fully captured the concerns and priorities of members and their resulting items were endorsed by the Society members. The final Top 5 list was endorsed by the NZDS Executive on December 17, 2015.


Published: 10 Dec 2021 Modified: 10 Dec 2021