If you have been to a dermatologist, the issue of a skin biopsy may have come up.

Skin BiopsyWhat is a skin biopsy? A skin biopsy allows the physician to make a diagnosis of a rash or a worrisome skin lesion, for example when your doctor suspects a skin cancer.

It is a procedure during which a small piece of skin is cut and then sent to a pathologist. A pathologist is a doctor that looks at the cells of the tissue and makes a diagnosis (when possible).

A potential order of events is as follows:

  1. Your physician explains the procedure and obtains your consent to do the procedure.
  2. The area may be photographed.
  3. The area is cleaned and numbed with an anaesthetic medication. You will feel a prick and some stinging as the medication is injected into your skin.
  4. A small piece of skin is obtained either by a scalpel, a special biopsy blade, or by a cookie cutter like device.
  5. Depending on how much and how the skin is taken, stitches may be placed. If stitches are not placed, bleeding may be stopped by application of certain chemicals or via a cautery device.
  6. The area is bandaged.
  7. Wound care is reviewed.
  8. The tissue is sent to a pathologist to help render a diagnosis.

Step 4 alludes to the different types of skin biopsies.

  • A Shave biopsy is usually done with a blade and does not require stitches.
  • A Punch biopsy uses a special cookie cutter device to obtain skin. Stitches are frequently placed when a Punch biopsy is taken.