(Skin Lesion Biopsy; Shave Biopsy; Punch Biopsy; Excision Biopsy)
by Editorial Staff and Contributors
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:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
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:
Possible Complications TOP
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:
What to Expect TOP
Prior to Procedure
No special preparation is needed for this procedure.
Local anesthesia may be used. It will numb the area being treated.
Description of the Procedure TOP
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.
How Long Will It Take? TOP
Will It Hurt? TOP
There may be some pain and discomfort after the procedure. Your doctor will recommend medication to minimize this discomfort.
Post-procedure Care TOP
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.
Call Your Doctor TOP
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
Last Updated: 6/24/2013