A skin biopsy removes cells or skin samples from the surface of your body. The sample taken from a skin biopsy is examined to provide information about your medical condition. A doctor uses a skin biopsy to diagnose or rule out certain skin conditions and diseases.
Three main types of skin biopsies are:
A skin biopsy is used to diagnose or rule out skin conditions and diseases. It may also be used to remove skin lesions.
A skin biopsy may be necessary to diagnose or to help treat skin conditions and diseases, including:
A skin biopsy is a generally safe procedure, but complications can occur, including:
Before the skin biopsy, tell your doctor if you:
Depending on the location of the skin biopsy, you may be asked to undress and change into a clean gown. A doctor or nurse then cleans the area of the skin to be biopsied. Your skin may be marked with a surgical marker or marking pen to outline the biopsy area.
You then receive a local anesthetic to numb the biopsy site. This is usually given by injection with a thin needle. The numbing medication can cause a burning sensation in the skin for a few seconds. Afterward, the biopsy site is numb and you shouldn't feel any pain or discomfort during the skin biopsy.
What you can expect during your skin biopsy depends on the type of biopsy you'll undergo.
A skin biopsy typically takes about 15 minutes total, including the preparation time, dressing the wound and instructions for at-home care.
Your doctor may instruct you to keep the bandage over the biopsy site until the next day. Occasionally, the biopsy site bleeds after you leave the doctor's office. This is more likely in people taking blood-thinning medications. If this occurs, apply direct pressure to the wound for 10 to 20 minutes. If bleeding continues, contact your health care provider.
All biopsies cause a small scar. Some people develop a prominent, raised scar. The risk of this is increased when a biopsy is done on the neck or upper torso, such as the back or chest. Initially, the scar will be pink and then fade to white or sometimes brown. Scars fade gradually. The scar's permanent color will be evident one or two years after the biopsy.
Try not to bump the biopsy site area or do activities that might stretch the skin. Stretching the skin could cause the wound to bleed or enlarge the scar.
Healing of the wound can take several weeks, but is usually complete within two months. Wounds on legs and feet tend to heal slower than those on other areas of the body.
How to care for the biopsy site while it heals:
Continue caring for the biopsy site until the stitches are removed. For shave biopsies that don't require stitches, continue wound care until the skin is healed.
After the biopsy procedure, your doctor sends the sample to a laboratory for testing. Depending on the skin condition, type of biopsy and the laboratory procedures, results may take several days or a couple of weeks. Results of biopsies for metabolic or genetic testing can take several months or more.
Your doctor may schedule an office appointment to discuss the results of the test. If possible, bring along a family member or friend. It can be difficult to absorb all the information provided during an appointment. The person who accompanies you may remember something that you forgot or missed.
Write down questions that you want to ask your doctor. Don't be afraid to ask questions or to speak up when you don't understand something. Questions you may want to ask include: