What is a Skin Biopsy?
A skin biopsy is a surgical procedure in which a layer of skin is removed in order to diagnose skin cancer, melanoma, or other types of skin conditions. The layer of skin removed is thoroughly examined by a dermatopathology laboratory with specialized technicians. The tissue removed will undergo thorough microscopic examination.
A skin biopsy is typically recommended to either rule out or diagnose a skin condition, but it can also be used to remove skin lesions such as skin tags, moles or warts.
There are four common types of skin biopsies used at our Greeley dermatology office including:
- A shave biopsy in which the surface of a section of skin is shaved off using a razor-like tool
- A punch biopsy in which a section of deep skin tissue is removed using a circular instrument
- An incisional biopsy in which a small section of skin is removed using a scalpel
- An excisional biopsy in which an entire area of affected skin is removed by a biopsy surgeon
For more helpful information about a skin biopsy, click here.
Caring for the Biopsy Site
The type of biopsy performed will depend on the potential severity of the skin condition, but each type will leave a wound that will require proper care. The procedure itself typically only takes around 15 minutes, but you will need to care for the wound until the skin has completely healed.
Following the procedure, your biopsy surgeon will tend to the wound either with a clean bandage for a shave biopsy, or with stitches or steri-strips and a bandage if you’ve had a punch, incisional, or excisional biopsy. You will need to keep the biopsy covered by the bandage until the wound heals to prevent infection. Biopsy sites may bleed following the procedure, but can typically be stopped by applying gentle yet direct pressure for 10-20 minutes.
Be careful that you always wash your hands with soap and water before caring for the biopsy site. Your dermatologists will give you detailed instructions on how to wash and rinse the wound along with instructions on how often to change the bandage and how long you must wear a bandage.
Typically, you will be instructed to leave wound dressings until the next day and not shower that first day. The day after the biopsy, you should be allowed to shower, but you must keep the bandage on during the shower then quickly dry the area and apply a new, clean bandage. You will need to change the bandage daily until there is no open wound; the timeline for this can range from a couple of days to a couple of weeks depending on the type of biopsy and size of the skin removed.
Recovery Following a Skin Biopsy
Immediately following a skin biopsy, you will be instructed to avoid strenuous physical activities such as weight lifting, running, or other highly active sports for a period. You may only have to limit activity for a day, but if a large section or deep section of skin was removed, it may be significantly longer. This helps to encourage healing in the skin and preventing stitches from being pulled apart or reopening a wound.
Recovering from a skin biopsy is easily done by keeping the biopsy site clean and covered, avoiding contact on the biopsy site, and avoiding stretching of the skin in the area. For surgical biopsy recovering time, a biopsy wound can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to fully heal, again depending on the size and type of biopsy performed. You must continue to diligently care for the wound until the skin has fully healed.
Have additional questions? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.