INTRODUCTION: Timely recognition of soft tissue sarcomas (STS) remains challenging, potentially leading to unplanned excisions (also known as 'whoops procedures'). This population-based study charted the occurrence of unplanned excisions and identified associated patient, tumour, and treatment-related characteristics. Furthermore, it presents an overview of the outcomes and clinical management following an unplanned excision.
METHODS: From the Netherlands Cancer Registry (NCR) database, information was obtained on 2187 adult patients diagnosed with STS in 2016-2019 who underwent surgery. Tumours located in the mediastinum, heart or retroperitoneum were excluded, as well as incidental findings. Differences between patients with planned and unplanned excisions were assessed with chi-square tests and a multivariable logistic regression model.
RESULTS: Overall, unplanned excisions comprise 18.2% of all first operations for STS, with a quarter of them occurring outside a hospital. Within hospitals, the unplanned excision rate was 14.4%. Unplanned excisions were more often performed on younger patients, and tumours unsuspected of being STS prior to surgery were generally smaller (≤5 cm) and superficially located. Preoperative imaging was omitted more frequently in these cases. An unplanned excision more often resulted in positive margins, requiring re-excision. Patients who had an unplanned excision outside of a sarcoma centre were more often discussed at or referred to a sarcoma centre, particularly in case of residual tumour.
DISCUSSION: Potential improvement in preventing unplanned excisions may be achieved by better compliance to preoperative imaging and referral guidelines, and stimulating continuous awareness of STS among general surgeons, general practitioners and private practices.