April 16, 2009

Surgical gel may mimic tumors on mammogram

U.S. researchers report seven cases in which a gel sometimes used during surgery to stop bleeding may mimic microcalcifications in mammograms.

Dr. Kathleen Ward, a Loyola University Health System radiologist, noticed something odd when she examined the mammogram of a patient who had recently undergone breast cancer surgery.

She saw a suspicious pattern of white specks, much like grains of salt similar to microcalcifications that sometimes are a sign of early breast cancer. However, it was too early for the patient's breast cancer to have returned because it had been only a month since her lumpectomy.

The microcalcifications were not from cancer, but due to a gel that is sometimes used during surgery to stop bleeding, Ward said.

FloSeal is among the products surgeons use to stop bleeding when sutures or staples are not sufficient or are impractical.

Study co-author Dr. Richard Cooper said FloSeal should not be used in breast surgery.

The study, published in the American Journal of Roentgenology, found that in six patients, the microcalcifications caused by FloSeal were seen on six-month follow-up mammograms. In the seventh patient, the microcalcifications were seen on a mammogram taken one month after lumpectomy to look for residual malignant calcifications.