Skin Biopsy / Excision

A skin biopsy is a procedure that removes cells or samples of skin from the surface of the body. The skin sample is then examined in a lab to provide information about a person's medical condition.

What is a skin biopsy?

A skin biopsy is a procedure that removes cells or samples of skin from the surface of the body. The skin sample is then examined in a lab to provide information about a person’s medical condition. Skin biopsies can be done one of three ways: shave, punch and excisional. With a shave biopsy, skin is removed using a tool similar to a razor. The tool used in a punch biopsy is circular and removes small sections of skin including deeper layers such as the epidermis, the dermis and superficial fat. Excisional biopsies are covered in more detail below.

Excisional Biopsies

During this type of biopsy, a doctor will use a scalpel to remove a lump or an entire area of abnormal skin. A small portion of normal skin down to or through a fatty layer of skin will also be removed for the sample. You will receive a local anesthetic beforehand to numb the area. The numbing medication may cause a temporary burning sensation, but this will fade after a few seconds. With the biopsy site numb, you shouldn’t feel any discomfort or pain during the procedure. Stitches may be needed to close the wound and adhesive bandages will be placed over the excision to prevent bleeding and to protect the wound.

Why are they done?

Skin biopsies are performed to rule out or diagnose serious skin conditions and diseases. Skin lesions can also be removed with this procedure. They are extremely helpful and necessary for diagnosing:

  • Skin cancers (melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma)
  • Suspicious moles or growths that could be cancerous
  • Warts
  • Skin infections
  • Skin tags
  • Actinic keratosis (crusty, scaly growths caused by skin damage)
  • Dermatitis (an itchy inflammation of the skin)
  • Psoriasis (itchy, dry patches of skin)
  • Blistering skin disorders such as bullous pemphigoid

When can I expect the results?

After your procedure, your doctor will send the skin sample to a lab for testing. Results may take several days or multiple weeks to come back. Your doctor will probably schedule an office appointment to go over the results with you. We encourage you to ask questions and get a full understanding of the results.

If you have any questions or concerns about skin biopsies or excisional biopsies and you live in San Diego County, give North Coast Family Medical Group a call. We are happy to assist you in any way that we can.