Skin Biopsy 101


Usually, a skin biopsy is done if your dermatologist notices an unusual-looking skin rash or blemish, or if he or she suspects that a mole might be precancerous or cancerous. A skin biopsy allows a trained physician to carefully examine the cellular appearance of your skin under a microscope. The skin sample is thinly sliced, put on a glass slide and meticulously observed over a number of days. This is all done in a pathological lab where your skin sample is sent to where pathologists and specialized dermatologists work to diagnose skin conditions and decide the diagnosis based on their findings. Examining skin samples is a skill that dermatologists learn during their training.

Skin biopsies are done using three different methods: scalpel excision, shaving the skin off, or using a puncher.

Shaving Biopsy – This is done by using a sharp tool or a razor to cut the skin tissue near horizontally

Punch Biopsy – This method is used when a deeper sample is needed, and most likely requires stitches

Excision Biopsy – This type of procedure is done using a scalpel and is usually done to remove an entire area of abnormal skin, and also requires stitches afterwards

It’s important to care for your biopsy wound afterwards. Keep in mind that all skin biopsies do cause a small scar. What’s vital is the aftercare that you do at home to minimize the recovery time after a biopsy is performed on you. First is to make sure that the bleeding does not continue after your biopsy wound has been dressed. Inform your dermatologist if you are taking any blood-thinning medications. Try to avoid doing activities that may cause the biopsy area to bump around, or for the skin to stretch, as it can make the wound much larger, or the stitches to come apart, resulting in more bleeding and a larger scar. Remember to keep the wound dry and clean until it has healed completely.

If you have stitches that need to be removed, your dermatologist will take them out and he or she will examined how the wound has healed.

If you are experiencing constant bleeding or drainage from your biopsy wound, or if you have any swelling, increased tenderness or redness, or if you have developed a fever, then you should call your doctor immediately as these can be signs of infection.

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