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Skin Biopsy

How It Feels

You will feel brief stinging pain when the local anesthetic is injected. You should not feel any pain when the skin sample is removed.

Risks

Although unlikely, there is a slight risk of infection and a slight risk of persistent bleeding. If you usually form scars after skin injuries or surgery, you could develop a scar at the biopsy site.

After the procedure

Your doctor will give you specific instructions on how to care for your biopsy site. Keep the biopsy site clean and dry until it heals completely.

Your stitches will be taken out 3 to 14 days after the biopsy, depending on the biopsy site. Adhesive bandages should remain in place until they fall off. This usually takes from 7 to 14 days.

The biopsy site may be sore or bleed slightly for several days. Ask your doctor how much bleeding or other drainage is expected. Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • Excessive bleeding or drainage through the bandage. If excessive bleeding occurs, apply pressure to the biopsy site and contact your doctor.
  • Increased tenderness, pain, redness, or swelling at the biopsy site.
  • A fever.

Results

A skin biopsy is a procedure in which a sample of skin tissue is removed, processed, and examined under a microscope.

Results from a skin biopsy usually are available in 3 to 10 days.

Skin biopsy
Normal:

The skin sample consists of normal skin tissue.

Abnormal:

Noncancerous (benign) growths are seen. Benign growths do not contain cancer cells. Benign skin changes include moles, skin tags, warts, seborrheic keratoses, keloids, cherry angiomas, and benign skin tumors, such as neurofibromas or dermatofibromas.

Cancer cells such as basal cell cancer, squamous cell cancer, or melanoma are present.

Other diseases such as lupus, psoriasis, or vasculitis are present.

A bacterial or fungal infection is present.

Your doctor will talk with you about any abnormal results that may be related to your symptoms and past health.

What Affects the Test

Taking medicines, such as anti-inflammatory medicines, those used for fungal infections (antifungal medicines), and corticosteroid skin creams, can interfere with your test or the accuracy of the results.

What To Think About

  • If the biopsy contains cancer cells, more surgery will be needed to remove the cancer completely.
  • If the biopsy is done on your face, you may want to have it done by a doctor who specializes in surgical techniques that can minimize scarring, such as a plastic surgeon or dermatologist.
  • Further testing may be needed if:
    • A small biopsy does not contain enough cells to make an accurate diagnosis.
    • Cells from the abnormal area weren't included in the sample.
    • The growth or skin rash changes after the first biopsy.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 22, 2013
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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