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What is a skin biopsy or excision?

Your dermatologist may recommend taking a sample of your skin to confirm the diagnosis of a lesion.  There are three main types of skin biopsies.

  1. Shave Biopsy. Your dermatologist uses a razor or blade to remove the top section of the top layer of skin.
  2. Punch Biopsy. A round punch tool is inserted into the skin to remove a small core of skin.
  3. Excisional Biopsy. A small scalpel is used to remove the entire lesion or area of abnormal skin, including a margin of normal skin, down to the fatty layer of skin.

How to prepare for a biopsy or excision?

 Notify your dermatologist of any of the following;

  • Allergies to local anaesthetics, topical antibiotics or antiseptics.
  • Allergies to Band-Aids or tape.
  • Have a bleeding disorder.
  • Taking blood thinning medication or supplements ie fish oil.
  • Have a history of keloid scars.
  • Have a pacemaker.

What should I expect?

The area of skin to be biopsied will be marked out, sterilely prepped with an antiseptic solution and a local anaesthetic will be injected around the biopsy site.  To confirm whether the site is adequately anaesthetised, the nurse or doctor may prick the area before the procedure begins.

For a punch or excisional biopsy, you may require sutures to close the wound.  A dressing is then placed over the wound to protect and prevent from bleeding.  Your doctor will provide instructions on wound aftercare and may supply you with extra dressings to take home.

Sometimes biopsy sites may bleed after the procedure, and this may happen with patients on blood thinners.  If this occurs, we ask you apply direct pressure to the wound area for at least 20 minutes, review the area, and if it continues to bleed apply a further 20 minutes.  If bleeding still continues, we ask that you contact the surgery.

What happens after the biopsy?

You will be provided with written instructions on wound care, which includes keeping the area dry for the first 24 hours.  You may also be provided with a prescription of antibiotic tablets or creams dependant on the location of the biopsy.

An appointment may be arranged to see your dermatologist either one or two weeks after your biopsy/excision, for removal of sutures and to discuss the results.

Click here for Excision or Biospy Aftercare instructions

Click here for Curettage and Cautery Aftercare instructions