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Skin Biopsy

Skin biopsy is taken when there is an infection or disease in the skin, which requires further examination.

A small piece of tissue is cut with the help of the blade/ knife under sterile conditions, after cleaning the surface of the skin.

Then the skin surface is stitched together, leaving a very small, almost invisible scar.

Several different methods may be used to obtain a skin sample, depending on the size and location of the abnormal area of skin, called a skin lesion. The skin sample is placed in a solution, such as formaldehyde, or in a sterile container if infection is suspected. In each of these procedures, the tissue is processed and then examined under a microscope.

Skin biopsies most often are done to diagnose skin cancer, which may be suspected when an abnormal area of skin has changed color, shape, size, or appearance or has not healed after an injury. Skin cancers are the most common type of cancers.

Early diagnosis of a suspicious skin lesion and skin biopsy can help identify skin cancers and lead to early treatment.

How It Is Done

Several different methods may be used to obtain a skin sample, depending on the size and location of the skin lesion. The skin sample is placed in a solution, such as formaldehyde, or in a sterile container if infection is suspected. In each of these procedures, the tissue is then examined under a microscope.

  • Shave biopsy. After a local anesthetic is injected, a surgical knife (scalpel) is used to shave off the growth. Stitches are not needed. Any bleeding can usually be controlled with a chemical that stops bleeding and by applying pressure. The biopsy site is then covered with a bandage or sterile dressing. See a picture of a shave skin biopsy.
  • Punch biopsy. After a local anesthetic is injected, a small, sharp tool that looks like a cookie cutter (punch) is placed over the lesion, pushed down, and slowly rotated to remove a circular piece of skin. The skin sample is lifted up with a tool called a forceps or a needle and is cut from the tissue below. Stitches may not be needed for a small skin sample. If a large skin sample is taken, one or two stitches may be needed. Pressure is applied to the site until the bleeding stops. The wound is then covered with a bandage or sterile dressing. See a picture of a punch biopsy .
  • Incision. After a local anesthetic is injected, a piece of the lesion is removed with a scalpel. Stitches are used to close the wound. Pressure is applied to the site until the bleeding stops. The wound is then covered with a bandage or sterile dressing.
  • Excision. After a local anesthetic is injected, the entire lesion is removed with a scalpel. Stitches are used to close the wound. Pressure is applied to the site until the bleeding stops. The wound is then covered with a bandage or sterile dressing. If the excision is large, a skin graft may be needed. See a picture of an excisional biopsy . If cancer is discovered, more surgery will be needed.
 
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