A skin lesion biopsy is when a small amount of skin is removed so it can be examined. The skin is tested to look for skin conditions or diseases. A skin biopsy can help your health care provider diagnose or rule out problems such as skin cancer or psoriasis.
Follow your health care provider's instructions on how to prepare for the biopsy.
Why the Test is Performed
Your provider may order a skin biopsy:
To diagnose the cause of a skin rash
To make sure a skin growth or lesion is not skin cancer
The tissue that was removed is examined under a microscope. Results are most often returned in a few days to a week or more. If a skin lesion is benign (not cancer), you may not need any further treatment. If the whole skin lesion was not removed at the time of biopsy, you and your provider may decide to completely remove it.
What Abnormal Results Mean
Once the biopsy confirms the diagnosis, your provider will start a treatment plan. A few of the skin problems that may be diagnosed are:
The goal is to keep the area clean and dry. Be careful not to bump or stretch the skin near the area, which can cause bleeding. If you have stitches, they will be taken out in about 3 to 14 days.
If you have moderate bleeding, apply pressure to the area for 10 minutes or so. If the bleeding does not stop, call your health care provider right away. You should also call your provider if you have signs of infection, such as:
More redness and swelling
Drainage coming from or around the incision that is thick, tan, green, or yellow, or smells bad (pus)
Once the wound heals, you may have a scar.
Affleck AG, Colver G. Skin biopsy techniques. In: Robinson JK, Hanke CW, Siegel DM, Fratila A, eds. Surgery of the Skin: Procedural Dermatology. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2010:chap 11.
Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 27.
Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.