One of the most common procedures you’ll encounter as a wound care professional is that of a skin biopsy, an essential procedure that can help doctors diagnose skin diseases.
There are instances when a routine health check-up may not be enough to produce a diagnosis. To remove any doubts, a skin biopsy is sometimes ordered to achieve a more accurate finding.
What is a skin biopsy?
A skin biopsy is a medical procedure where a doctor cuts or removes a small part of the skin that will serve as a sample.
This sample will then be tested by a pathologist under a microscope so a doctor can correctly determine a patient’s condition and treat accordingly. This procedure is usually done to diagnose various skin diseases, infections, skin cancer and rashes among others.
Why do you need it?
A skin biopsy may be required if a patient is experiencing certain skin symptoms such as a persistent rash, scaly or rough skin, open sores, or a mole (or other types of growth) whose shape, size, and color are considered irregular.
Types of Skin Biopsy
A shave biopsy is a type of biopsy where a doctor shaves a thin layer of skin either from the top or around the lesion with the use of a razor blade.
This procedure is often used for patients who may have skin cancer or if the rash found is limited to the top layer of the skin.
A punch biopsy is carried out using a small instrument called a “punch” to remove a circular section of the skin through all layers of the lesion.
An excisional biopsy is when a doctor uses a scalpel to remove an entire lesion though this procedure is usually applicable only on smaller lesions.
This type of biopsy is often used if the doctor suspects the patient of having the most serious type of skin cancer called melanoma.
An incisional biopsy is similar to an excisional one only this time, the lesion that’s being removed is a larger one.
How is the procedure done?
Since the procedure can cause a bit of pain and discomfort, patients are given an anesthetic before the biopsy is done.
Punch, excisional, and incisional biopsies usually require sutures or stitches to close while shave biopsies don’t. Biopsies are also usually done in the doctor’s office and won’t require a patient to be admitted.
Given how the procedure is carried out, some soreness around the biopsied area is to be expected. Though it’s generally not as painful as other medical procedures, it may cause a little discomfort.
Doctors would usually prescribe meds like Tylenol or paracetamol for pain relief in such cases.
For biopsies that require stitches, just make sure to keep the area clean and moist until it is removed. As for biopsies closed via adhesive steri-strips, just keep them clean and try not to remove them because they’d gradually come off on their own.
What happens to the skin sample?
The skin or tissue extracted is brought to a pathologist who is tasked to analyze the sample using a microscope to identify if the patient has a disease and what kind of disease it may be.
The results of a biopsy usually come back one to two weeks after.
When to call a doctor
Biopsies are generally safe but given our different physiologies, there are instances when the body reacts differently.
If you experience anything from bleeding to signs of infection like skin redness, warmth, or the appearance of pus, call your doctor immediately.
Skin biopsies are essential in reaching a more accurate diagnosis. Though the procedure is considered safe, it’s crucial to understand how it is implemented and what possible consequences it presents so a patient would know what to do and who to call should the biopsy present some unexpected side effects.