A skin lesion biopsy is the removal of a piece of skin to diagnose or rule out an illness.
How the test is performed:
There are several ways to do a skin biopsy. Most procedures can be easily done in outpatient medical offices or your doctor's office.
Which procedure you have depends on several factors, including the location, size, and type of lesion. You will receive some type of numbing medicine (anesthetic) before any type of skin biopsy.
Types of skin biopsies include:
- Shave biopsy
- Punch biopsy
- Excisional biopsy
The shave biopsy is the least invasive of all three techniques. Your doctor will remove the outermost layers of skin. You will not need stitches.
Punch biopsies are most often used for deeper skin lesions. Your doctor removes a small round piece of skin (usually the size of a pencil eraser) using a sharp, hollow instrument. If a large sample is taken, the area may be closed with stitches.
An excisional biopsy is done to remove the entire lesion. A numbing medicine is injected into the area. Then the entire lump, spot, or sore is removed, going as deep as necessary to get the entire area. The area is closed with stitches. Pressure is applied to the area to stop any bleeding. If a large area is biopsied, a skin graft or flap of normal skin may be used to replace the skin that was removed.
Why the test is performed:
Your doctor may order a skin biopsy if you have signs or symptoms of skin cancer, benign growths, chronic bacterial and fungal skin infections, or other skin conditions.
What abnormal results mean:
The test may reveal skin cancers or benign (noncancerous) conditions. Bacteria and fungi can be identified. The test may also reveal some inflammatory diseases of the skin. Once the diagnosis is confirmed with the biopsy, a treatment plan is usually started.