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(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 3 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 the biopsy. 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 involved area will be prepared. The skin 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 may be advised to reduce 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. The area will need to be cleaned to prevent infection. Do not get the area wet unless the doctor says it is okay to do so.
Call Your Doctor TOP
After arriving home, contact the doctor if any of the following 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
Pickett H. Shave and punch biopsy for skin lesions. Am Fam Physician. 2011;84(9):995-1002.
Skin biopsy. Nemours Kids Health website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated July 2012. Accessed February 25, 2015.
Skin biopsy. DermNet NZ website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated December 13, 2014. Accessed February 25, 2015.
6/3/2011 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com: Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, et al. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.
Last reviewed March 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 6/24/2013
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