Skin biopsy is a short procedure which pathologically determines disease or disorders of the skin, using testing facilities at laboratories.
This procedure is requested by dermatologists to narrow down the underlying cause of skin disease. Skin biopsies aid dermatologists in prescribing apt medication, as well as rule out any infections or even malignancy.
A common misconception is that skin biopsies are meant to only determine malignancy. In reality, skin biopsies can be used to test rashes, papules, parasitic infections, inflammatory disorders (psoriasis, dermatitis etc) and cancer among the few.
The procedure includes removing a small portion of the affected skin, prepping and sending the biopsy sample for pathological assessment.
Skin biopsies can be performed using different techniques to suit the lesion.
- Shave biopsy – This technique involves scraping the top of the area encompassing the lesion. It is widely used on surface disorders like rashes or psoriasis.
- Punch biopsy – This method consists of using an instrument called a ‘punch’ to remove a tiny circular section containing all layers of the lesion. It is utilized in cases like parasitical infections, where the subdermal regions are affected.
- Excisional biopsy – This manner of biopsy comprises removing the entire lesion. It is used for smaller lesions and at times may be used to remove a cancerous lesion.
- Incisional biopsy – The final approach consists of removing a small portion of a large lesion.
All procedures typically take 20 min to 1 hr to perform. An anaesthetic will be used to numb the area before the procedure. Some techniques of skin biopsy may involve closing the lesion using sutures (depending on the size).
Skin biopsies may cause redness, irritation, bleeding, scarring and infection. There is no downtime for small lesions, however, the biopsied area may take 1 to 2 weeks to completely heal.
Swimming and vigorous physical activity should be avoided to curb potential infections. Personal hygiene and prescribed after-care should be followed for ideal healing to occur. Results typically arrive from 7 to 14 days after which a follow-up consult may be required.
One must call the doctor’s office if the wound has excessive and uncontrollable bleeding or any signs of infection – such as; fever, pus, red streaks, tenderness and redness.