What to Expect During and After Your Skin Biopsy

May 01, 2023
What to Expect During and After Your Skin Biopsy
A skin biopsy helps diagnose unusual lesions on your skin. Before your appointment, here’s what you should do and what type of care your skin will need afterward.

A skin biopsy removes a small amount of suspicious skin to diagnose conditions. If the dermatological team here at North Pacific Dermatology has recommended you have a skin biopsy, you might be a little concerned. Know that early diagnosis gives you the best chance of successful treatment.

Here’s what to expect during and after your skin biopsy to help you feel a little more comfortable attending your appointment at our Arcata or Crescent City, California office.

The reasons for a skin biopsy

Your dermatologist may recommend a skin biopsy when you have a condition like:

  • Blistering skin disorders
  • Skin cancer
  • Skin tags
  • Unusual moles or other growths
  • Actinic keratosis

A skin biopsy helps your provider better diagnose your condition and devise a customized treatment plan.

About 5.4 million basal and squamous cell skin cancers are diagnosed yearly through biopsies, but the vast majority are resolved without serious complications. This is because early diagnosis leads to successful 

During the biopsy

When you come to North Pacific Dermatology, we may request you to undress and change into a hospital gown – depending on the location of your lesion.

We cleanse the biopsy site and mark it to ensure the location. Your provider applies a local anesthetic to numb the site and prevent sensation during the biopsy.

There are several types of biopsy; the rest of the procedure depends on which is best for your particular case.

If you’re undergoing a shave biopsy, your dermatologist uses a razor-like tool to scrape at the tissue. This biopsy may cause bleeding but doesn’t usually require stitches.

A punch or excisional biopsy collects a sample from a deeper layer of skin using a cutting tool. A punch biopsy uses a round-tipped cutting tool, while an excisional biopsy uses a scalpel. 

Depending on the wound's size and the cut's depth, stitches may be used to close the wound. Your provider bandages it, too, to protect it and prevent excessive bleeding. 

The entire biopsy procedure takes about 15 minutes.

Care after the biopsy

Our office will recommend you keep any bandage on the biopsy site for at least the next 24 hours. Then, if the site bleeds, apply direct pressure for about 20 minutes to encourage a clot. 

Your biopsy site may take several weeks to heal. Don't soak in a pool, hot tub, or bath until we've given you the clearance. 

Clean the biopsy site twice each day. Use gentle soap and water, rinse well, and pat dry with a clean towel. Apply a thin layer of petroleum jelly using a cotton swab applicator and cover the site with a bandage for about 2-3 days after the procedure. Keep up these wound care steps until your stitches are removed, or the site is completely healed. 

Biopsies do leave scars. They fade with time but may take several months or years to disappear virtually. The biopsy site may develop into a keloid scar that's thick and raised. The risk of this type of scar is more significant when the biopsy occurs on the back, neck, or chest. 

Finding out your results

We send your biopsy sample to a lab for further analysis. Usually, the results return within just a few days. Depending on the nature of your diagnosis, we may schedule an appointment to discuss your results and further treatment. 

If you have a suspicious skin or growth area that needs a biopsy, contact our office to find out how we can help. Call North Pacific Dermatology or use this website to set up your consultation.