Skin Biopsy Collection Procedures

Skin biopsies are done to diagnose or rule out skin conditions, diseases, and cancers. They can be used to either remove a portion or entire section of abnormal skin. Skin biopsy wounds typically take about two months to heal, and will leave a scar. The visibility of the scar can be minimized if the biopsy site is properly cared for. There are several methods to collect a skin biopsy sample including a shave biopsy, punch biopsy, and excisional biopsy, among others.

After the specimen sample is taken, it is sent to the laboratory for analysis. It is put in a fixative solution, which allows it to remain in its natural condition. The tissue is thinly sliced, put on to glass slides, stained, and examined by a pathologist using a microscope. The results of examination may confirm or rule out a diagnosis and/or determine the stage of a disease.

Shave Biopsy

A shave biopsy is done by first numbing the skin area, and removing a thin layer of skin with a small blade. Typically the epidermis and a small amount of the dermis are removed, shaving off the skin abnormality and surrounding skin. A shave biopsy causes bleeding, which is controlled through pressure, cauterization, and/or a topical chemical, covered by a bandage. A shave biopsy does not require stitches. A shave biopsy can be used to diagnose skin cancers which appear on the skin including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma, as well as other skin conditions which causes non-cancerous growths.

Punch Biopsy

A punch biopsy is done by numbing the skin area, stretching the skin, and using a circular tool to remove a small section of skin which includes the deep layers – the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous (under the skin) fat layers. Ice and pressure is used to stop bleeding which may be caused by the procedure, it may require a stitch or two to close, and a bandage to cover the biopsy site. A punch biopsy is used to diagnose cancer which appears on or in the skin including basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma as well as other skin conditions with non-cancerous growths or skin infections.

Excisional Biopsy

An excisional biopsy is done by first numbing the skin area, the doctor then uses a small knife or scalpel to remove an area of abnormal skin or lump, including a fragment of normal skin down to the subcutaneous (under the skin) fat. An excisional biopsy is typically done when the entire lesion or tumor needs to be removed. Often, an excisional biopsy is done after the initial diagnosis is found through a punch biopsy, as it requires more stitches to close and a longer healing period.