What is a skin biopsy?
A skin biopsy test is a process in which a tiny skin sample is removed for testing. The method can assist in diagnosing a skin lesion (an abnormal region of skin). The skin sample is examined under a microscope for skin cancer, disorders, or infections. A biopsy is only required for specific skin lesions. According to your provider, many lesions can be diagnosed just by looking at them.
A skin biopsy can be performed in three ways. The location, size, and depth of your skin lesion determines the sort of biopsy you receive:
- Shave Biopsy: A shave biopsy removes a sample from the top layers of skin with a razor blade or scalpel (a thin surgical cutting blade). If your illness looks to include only the top layers of skin, your provider will perform a shave biopsy.
- Punch biopsy: A punch biopsy removes a skin sample using a specific tool with a punch biopsy needle. If your condition involves deep layers of skin, your provider will do a punch biopsy.
- Excisional biopsy: A scalpel is used in an excisional biopsy to remove the entire skin lesion, generally with some normal skin surrounding it. The sample may comprise the whole thickness of the skin and the fat beneath the skin.
Why is it done?
Skin biopsies are used to diagnose or treat skin problems and diseases such as:
- Actinic keratosis is a type of skin cancer.
- Skin conditions that cause blistering.
- Cancer of the skin.
- Tags on the skin.
- Moles or other irregular growths.
A skin biopsy is usually not dangerous. However, unfavourable outcomes can occur, such as:
- A hypersensitive reaction.
How do you prepare?
Tell your doctor before the skin biopsy if you have:
- Have you had any skin reactions to creams or gels
- There have been reactions to tape.
- If you have a bleeding disorder.
- Have experienced severe bleeding following a medical treatment.
- Are on blood-thinning medication.
- Are you taking vitamins or homeopathy. When used with other medications, they might occasionally induce bleeding.
- Have skin infections in the past.
What to anticipate
You may be required to undress and change into a clean gown, depending on the location of the skin biopsy. The biopsied skin is cleansed and marked to delineate the spot.
You will next be given medication to numb the biopsy site. This is known as a local anesthetic. It is usually administered through injection with a thin needle. The numbing medication may induce a burning sensation on the skin for a few seconds. Following that, you should not have any discomfort throughout the skin biopsy. To ensure the numbing medication is effective, your doctor may prick your skin with a needle and ask whether you feel anything.
A skin biopsy usually takes around 15 minutes and includes the following steps:
- Skin preparation.
- Taking out the tissue.
- The wound is closed or bandaged.
- Getting advice about wound care at home.
Throughout the skin biopsy
The sort of biopsy you will have determines what you can expect during your skin biopsy.
A razor-like tool is used to scrape the tissue for a shave biopsy. The cut's depth varies. A shave biopsy results in bleeding. Pressure and medication administered to the skin are utilized to halt the bleeding.
A punch or excisional biopsy obtains a sample from the deeper skin layers using a cutting tool. To close the incision, stitches may be required. A bandage is applied to the wound to protect it and stop the bleeding.
After the skin biopsy
Your doctor may advise you to leave the bandage on the biopsy site till the next day. After you leave the clinic, the biopsy site may haemorrhage. This is more frequent in persons who take blood thinners. If this happens, apply direct pressure on the wound for 20 minutes before inspecting it. Apply pressure for another 20 minutes if the bleeding continues. If the bleeding persists, call your healthcare practitioner.
All biopsies leave scars. They gradually go away. The permanent colour of the spot will be determined one to two years following the biopsy.
Some individuals get a thick, elevated scar. This type of scar, known as a keloid scar, is more common in people with dark skin. When a biopsy is performed on the neck, back, or chest, the chance of a keloid scar increases.
Avoid bumping the affected area or engaging in activities that stretch the skin. Trying the skin may result in bleeding or a more prominent scar. Wait to soak in a bathtub, swimming pool, or hot tub until your doctor says it's safe, generally around seven days following the treatment.
Healing time can range from several weeks to several months. Wounds on the legs and feet heal more slowly than wounds on other parts of the body.
Unless the biopsy site is on your scalp, clean it twice a day. Scalp wounds should be cleansed once every day. Take the following steps:
- Before contacting the biopsy site, wash your hands with soap and water.
- Soap and water should be used to clean the biopsy site. Shampoo should be used if the biopsy site is on your scalp.
- Rinse well and dry with a clean towel.
- Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly to the affected area. When performing wound care for the first time, use a fresh container of petroleum jelly. Each time you apply the product, use a fresh cotton swab.
- Cover the operation location with a bandage for 2 to 3 days afterwards.
Continue wound care until your stitches are removed. If you don't have stitches, follow these wound care instructions until the skin heals.
If your wound is infected, ask your doctor if you can apply ice wrapped in a tiny cloth.