(Skin Lesion Biopsy; Shave Biopsy; Punch Biopsy; Excision Biopsy)
by Amy Scholten, MPH
A skin biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of skin for testing. There are three main types:
Reasons for Procedure
A skin biopsy may be done to diagnose:
A skin biopsy may also be done to:
Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Nothing needs to be done before this procedure.
The doctor may use local anesthesia. The area will be numbed.
Description of the Procedure
The exact steps will depend on the type of biopsy:
After the procedure, a bandage will be placed on the site.
How Long Will It Take?
5 to 20 minutes
Will It Hurt?
There may be some pain and discomfort after the procedure. Medicine will help.
At the Care Center
Most can go home after the procedure, when they feel ready.
Skin care will help prevent infection.
Test results should be ready in a few days to a week or so.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
Basal cell carcinoma of the skin. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/basal-cell-carcinoma-of-the-skin. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Skin biopsy procedure. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/15305-skin-biopsy-procedure. Accessed September 21, 2021.
Wark KJ, Smith SD, et al. How to perform a skin biopsy. Med J Aust. 2020;212(4):156-158.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP