There are several ways to do a skin biopsy. Most procedures are easily done in your doctor's office or an outpatient medical office.
Which procedure you have depends on the location, size, and type of lesion. A lesion is an abnormal area of the skin. This can be a lump, sore, or an area of skin color that is not normal.
You will receive some type of numbing medicine (anesthetic) before any type of skin biopsy. Types of skin biopsies are described below.
A shave biopsy is the least invasive method. Your doctor uses a small blade to remove the outermost layers of skin. The area removed includes all or part of the lesion. You do not need stitches. At the end of the procedure, medicine is applied to the area to stop any bleeding.
A punch biopsy is most often used for deeper skin lesions. Your doctor uses a skin punch tool to remove a small round piece of skin. The area removed is about the size of a pencil eraser. It includes all or part of the lesion. Medicine is put on the area to stop any bleeding. Often, the area is closed with stitches.
An excisional biopsy is usually done by a surgeon. During the procedure, the entire lesion is removed. Numbing medicine is injected into the area. The entire lesion is removed, going as deep as needed to get the whole area. The area is closed with stitches. If a large area is biopsied, a skin graft or flap of normal skin may be used to replace the skin that was removed.
An incisional biopsy takes only a piece of a large lesion for examination. Numbing medicine is injected into the area. A piece of the growth is cut and sent to the lab for examination. You may have stitches, if needed. The rest of the growth can be treated after the diagnosis is made.