Shedding light on suspicious moles

Three members of the NNUH's medical illustration department have received national recognition for innovation for developing a specialised photographic service to help doctors diagnose and treat patients with suspected melanoma.

Simon Dove, who heads the hospital's medical illustration team, and photographers Michael Smith and Emily Phillips were awarded the small team award in the 2009 Healthcare Scientist awards for innovation and technology for their work to produce dermatoscopic images of moles.

The hospital is the first in the east of England to use a combination of photographic techniques to achieve such high-quality images. “Photographic techniques have been used for some time to measure and monitor suspicious moles but the new techniques go a step further, allowing us to review the magnified images on an enlarged screen during our multidisciplinary meetings and make better team decisions about how the patient’s moles should be treated,” explained consultant dermatologist Nick Levell.

Currently around 180 new melanomas are diagnosed and about 1,000 moles are removed each year at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. Dermoscopy was invented five years ago to help physicians examine moles through a polarised lens using a hand-held light source.

Following a suggestion from plastic surgeon Marc Moncrieff, the medical illustration team worked with Marc and with dermatologists Nick Levell, Nasir Shah, Eunice Tan and Jennifer Garioch to develop a technique for photographing moles with a dermatoscope fixed to the camera, giving fantastically detailed images which can then be magnified on screen using specialised software.

“Diagnosis involves many different factors but new photographic techniques are evolving all the time,” said Nick Levell. “At the moment a large number of benign moles are surgically removed, just to be on the safe side, but in future I believe we will be able to use these photographic images to help us decide at an early stage whether suspicious moles should or should not be removed. “The enthusiastic approach towards innovation from the NNUH medical illustration department is helping many hospital departments deliver world leading high quality patient care to the people of Norfolk.”

Thursday 24th of December 2009 11:00:34 AM