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(Skin Lesion Biopsy; Shave Biopsy; Punch Biopsy; Excision Biopsy)
A skin biopsy is a procedure to remove a small piece of skin for testing. There are three main types of skin biopsies:
Reasons for Procedure TOP
A skin biopsy may be done to diagnose:
Skin biopsy may also be done to:
Possible Complications TOP
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will review potential problems, like:
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 area will be cleaned. Medication 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. Medication can help to manage the discomfort. .
Post-procedure Care TOP
Once you feel ready you will able to leave. You will need to follow some basic care steps once you are home. This will include keeping the area clean and dry. You will also need to watch for bleeding or signs of infection.
Stitches will be left in the skin for 3-14 days. Your doctor will check in the area to make sure it is healing as expected or remove stitches. It can take 2-10 days to get the result of your test.
Call Your Doctor TOP
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
American Society for Dermatologic Surgery
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Canadian Dermatology Association
Biopsy of Skin. DermNet NZ website. Available at: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/skin-biopsy. Updated September 2016. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Pickett H. Shave and punch biopsy for skin lesions. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(9):995-1002.
Skin biopsy. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at:
6/2/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T905141/Treatment-for-tobacco-use : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.
Last reviewed March 2018 by
EBSCO Medical Review Board
Donald W. Buck II, MD
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Telephone: (615) 344-6060
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