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Skin Biopsy

What is Skin Biopsy

Your doctor may want to obtain a sample of skin in order to diagnose diseases of the skin, such as those caused by skin tumors, other types of growths, infections, or other skin conditions. This procedure is called a skin biopsy.

A biopsy of a lesion of the skin can help your doctor tell the difference between a skin cancer and a benign, or noncancerous, lesion. The skin sample obtained during a biopsy is sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope.

How the procedure is performed:

  • In a punch biopsy, a sharp cookie cutter - like instrument is used to remove a small cylinder of skin. Sometimes stitches are necessary to close this type of biopsy wound.
  • A shave biopsy is a procedure where the outermost part of a lesion can also be removed with a scalpel. No suturing is required to close this wound.

Risks of Skin Biopsy

You should discuss with your doctor the following potential risks and complications of the biopsy procedure. You may need to sign a consent form before the procedure is performed.

Possible risks include these:

  • Bleeding from the biopsy site
  • Pain
  • Local reaction to the anesthetic
  • Infection
  • Healing problems - If you tend to form large, overgrown scars (keloids), you have an increased chance of forming a similar lesion over the biopsy site. Smoking and some chronic medical conditions such as diabetes affect the healing ability of the skin.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/16/2015
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