What is a Skin Biopsy?
A skin biopsy is a medical procedure in which a Physician removes a small sample of skin for testing and examination. This sample is then used to diagnose conditions such as cancer, infections, or other disorders. In order to provide the highest quality Dermatology care to our patients, our skin biopsies are interpreted by a highly specialized Pathologist with extra training in skin diseases (a Dermatopathologist).
Will a Skin Biopsy hurt?
We numb the area before we do any biopsy or procedure. We use a very small needle to inject numbing medication into the are being sampled so no pain is felt during the biopsy procedure.
What are the Different Types of Skin Biopsy?
Depending on what skin condition is being diagnosed, your Dermatologist will select one of several types of skin biopsy:
- Shave biopsy : This variation requires the doctor to shave a thin layer from the top or around a lesion using a tool that resembles a razor.
- Punch biopsy : Using a circular tool called a “punch”, our doctor removes a small section of the lesion. Your Dermatologist may put in 1-3 stitches after a punch biopsy to ensure optimal healing of the site.
- Excisional biopsy : Your Derm atologist will use a scalpel to take off the entire lesion and often use stitches to close the biopsy site.
- Incisional biopsy : Using a scalpel, your doctor removes a small sample of a large lesion.
Which Conditions Can a Skin Biopsy Help Diagnose?
A skin biopsy is necessary to either diagnose or rule out a number of skin conditions including:
- Skin Cancer
- Actinic keratosis
- Blistering skin disorders
- Inflammatory skin conditions such as dermatitis or psoriasis
- Skin tags
- Skin infections
- Suspicious moles
Caring for Your Wound After a Skin Biopsy
Learning how to properly care for your wound after a biopsy will help optimize the scar’s appearance and ensure a rapid recovery. Here are some general guidelines you should follow after the procedure:
- Do not do anything that raises your blood pressure or heart rate for at least 48 hours - No exercising, lifting, bending, stretching, or straining.
- Do not exercise heavily or lift heavy objects until after the sutures are removed (if your Dermatologist put stitches into the biopsy site)
- Do not drink alcohol for 48 hours.
- Leave the bandage on your wound for 24-48 hours.
- Be sure to keep the area clean and dry.
- After 24-48 hours, wash the area daily twice a day with gentle soap and water.
- If you were prescribed an antibiotic, please take as directed and finish the prescription course.
- Your surgical site has been injected with a long-lasting local anesthetic. This will begin to wear off in 4-6 hours. You can take a dose of pain medicine before this occurs for your comfort (as directed by your Primary Care Physician).
How Should I Clean My Wound After a Biopsy?
- Gentle soap (like Dove bar soap or Cerave/Cetaphil)
- Vaseline or Aquaphor
- Cotton swabs (Q-tips)
- Clean gauze pads or dry washcloth
- Gather your supplies
- Wash your hands with warm water and soap or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Clean your wound with gentle soap. Do not scrub the site- be gentle!
- Gently pat your wound dry with a glean gauze or clean, dry washcloth. DO NOT RUB!
- Use cotton swab to apply a thin layer of Vaseline or Aquaphor to your wound.
- Allow to fully dry if not covering with a bandage.
- Cover your wound with non-stick gauze or a Band-Aid. If you use non-stick gauze, keep it in place with paper tape.
- Wash your hands again or use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Repeat every 24 hours.