Skin Biopsy

A skin biopsy refers to the removal and microscopic examination of skin tissue to help identify the presence, cause or extent of a disease or condition. This may be crucial because several skin conditions may look similar and knowing what causes a particular skin problem may ultimately help guide specific treatment.

Your affiliated DermOne provider starts by asking your permission to perform a skin biopsy. The affected area is then usually photographed prior to the procedure being completed. Your surgeon may mark your skin with ink to help guide the biopsy. A local anesthetic is usually injected into the surrounding skin to completely numb the area. Then, the biopsy is completed using one of several available techniques:

Shave biopsy
Using a scalpel, razor blade or special shave-biopsy tool, a portion of the skin is shaved superficially. No stitches are required, and the wound usually takes one to two weeks to heal.

Punch biopsy
Using a device that resembles a small cookie cutter, a cylindrical “core” of skin tissue is removed, providing the opportunity to evaluate all layers of the skin at once. Stitches (sutures) are usually used to close the resulting wound; however, it may be left to heal from the inside out.

Excisional/incisional biopsy
Using a scalpel blade, a football-shaped portion of skin is removed with either the intent to completely remove a skin lesion (excisional biopsy) or to remove a larger/deeper portion of tissue for diagnostic purposes (incisional biopsy). Stitches are usually used to close the resulting wound; however, it may be left to heal from the inside-out.

Next, the biopsy specimen is sent to a laboratory for processing into paper-thin sections that are then placed on glass slides and stained. A dermatopathologist examines these slides under a microscope and renders an opinion in order to help identify the presence, cause or extent of a disease or condition. It usually takes one to two weeks to obtain the results of a skin biopsy. However, in some cases it may take longer, since DermOne affiliated practices offer the opportunity for multiple experts to communicate with each other after reviewing clinical information, clinical photographs and pathology slides. This collaborative effort helps to best determine the diagnosis and treatment for a patient.