Skin biopsy

A skin biopsy involves removing a small piece of skin so that the tissue can be tested and examined more closely in the labs.

The procedure

There are a number of reasons why a skin biopsy might be needed, including testing for cancerous cells, detecting infections, and diagnosing a range of other skin disorders.

The procedure is very quick and straightforward and you’ll be able to go home afterwards. A number of different methods might be used, depending on the amount and depth of skin tissue required. Sometimes, the specialist will carefully scrape or shave, a small amount of skin from the surface (a shave biopsy), or a special ‘punch’ tool may be used to remove a small segment. For larger or more precise procedures, a scalpel may be used to remove the required sample.

Whatever technique is used, the specialist will discuss it with you beforehand and explain what’s going to happen. The area will be cleaned first and a local anaesthetic is used to numb the area, so it shouldn’t hurt.

It might be slightly sore afterwards for a couple of days or so, and there may be a small scar, which should fade with time. Sutures are usually placed after a biopsy and these are removed by your GP or at the hospital where you had the procedure. Suture removal is usually between 7-14 days after the procedure.

The skin sample is then sent to the labs for testing, and any results will be discussed with you during a follow-up further down the line.

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