Skin biopsies are a minor surgical procedure that involves the removal of cells or a piece of skin from the surface of the body in order to test for certain medication and health conditions. Doctors use skin biopsies to determine whether you have a specific disease or to rule out possible diagnoses, or they can be used to remove skin lesions.
It is a quick and painless procedure. The doctor will clean the area of the body where the biopsy will be performed, and then outline it with a surgical marker. Local anesthesia will be applied to the area, which may or may not cause a slight burning sensation for a few moments.
A bandage should be kept over the biopsy site until it heals, which can take anywhere from a couple weeks to two months. Some biopsies may cause a permanent scar, while others will eventually fade away.
There are three types of skin biopsies:
- Shave biopsy: The doctor uses a razor-like tool to remove the top layer of skin in the affected area. This method will cause bleeding, which is stopped by applying pressure and a topical cream to the site of the wound.
- Punch biopsy: The doctor will use a tool to remove the top layer, as well as deeper layers, of the skin in the affected area. Due to the deeper incision, this method may require stitches.
- Excisional biopsy: The doctor uses a scalpel to remove an entire area of abnormal skin, including normal skin surrounding it all the way down through the fatty layer of the skin.
Skin biopsy results may only take a few days to get back, or they could take several months. This depends on the skin condition, the type of skin biopsy performed, and the lab the biopsy is sent to.