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Reconstructive Breast Surgery: Referring Physician Knowledge and Learning Needs.

Wanzel, Kyle R. M.D., M.Ed.; Brown, Mitchell H. M.D., M.Ed.; Anastakis, Dimitri J. M.D., M.Ed.; Regehr, Glenn Ph.D.
Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery: November 2002
doi: 10.1097/01.PRS.0000030458.86726.50

: Despite the positive impact that reconstructive breast surgery can have on a woman's quality of life, the percentage of eligible candidates that have this procedure remains surprisingly low. The authors hypothesized that this may be attributable to inadequate knowledge, inadequate information, and/or misinformation available to physicians caring for these patients. A needs assessment of primary care physicians, general surgeons, oncologists, and plastic surgeons was conducted to determine referring physicians' current level of knowledge of reconstructive breast surgery and to discover potential learning needs. This comprised a survey, focus groups, and individual interviews. Referring physicians rated their own knowledge of reconstructive breast surgery as low. Plastic surgeons rated their referring physicians' knowledge as even lower. Specific learning needs were identified, as large discrepancies between referring physicians' self-reported knowledge of individual breast reconstruction topics and their own opinion of their relevance were revealed. In addition, despite evidence to the contrary, more than one-third of referring physicians indicated a belief that a breast reconstruction delayed the detection of local cancer recurrence and adversely interfered with adjuvant oncologic therapy. This lack of knowledge and misinformation may be negatively affecting patient referrals to plastic surgeons, as more than one-third of referring physicians and 90 percent of plastic surgeons believed that eligible candidates were not being offered referrals because of inadequate referring physician knowledge of this topic. Furthermore, patients older than 49 years were not being referred despite the fact that plastic surgeons would consider these patients as potential surgical candidates. Referring physician gender affected both referral patterns and perceived importance of reconstructive breast surgery. Finally, personal beliefs and past experiences played a role both in physicians' decisions to refer patients and in patients' decisions to have breast reconstructions. These deficiencies in information, knowledge, and learning needs should be addressed by educational interventions during residency training and through continuing education endeavors.

(C)2002American Society of Plastic Surgeons