A skin biopsy is a procedure where a small piece of abnormal skin is removed for testing. There are three main types of skin biopsies:
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A skin biopsy is used to test an area of abnormal skin. If possible the entire area will be removed during biopsy. A skin biopsy may be done to diagnose:
Skin biopsy may also be done to:
Complications are rare. However, no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a skin biopsy, your doctor will review a list of possible complications such as:
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
No special preparation is needed for this procedure.
Local anesthesia may be used. It will numb the area being treated.
The involved area will be prepared. The skin will be cleaned. Medicine will be applied to the skin or injected to numb the area. The exact steps will depend on the type of biopsy:
After the procedure, a clean dressing will be placed over the area.
There may be some pain and discomfort after the procedure. Your doctor will recommend medication to minimize this discomfort.
Keep the biopsy area clean and dry. Keep it covered with a sterile bandage for 1-2 days. Stitches will be left in the skin for 3-14 days, depending on where they are located. Ask your doctor when you can expect the results of the biopsy.
Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water. Pat the wound dry after you have washed it with a mild soap.
Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.
After arriving home, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Dermatology Association
Cancer Care Ontario
Pickett H. Shave and punch biopsy for skin lesions. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(9):995-1002.
Skin biopsy. Nemours Kidshealth website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/teen/your_body/skin_stuff/skin_biopsy.html. Updated July 2012. Accessed March 28, 2013.
Skin biopsy. DermNet NZ website. Available at: http://www.dermnetnz.org/procedures/biopsy.html. Updated April 14, 2012. Accessed March 28, 2012.
6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance https://dynamed.ebscohost.com/about/about-us: Mills E, Eyawo O, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed June 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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