What is a Biopsy?


Biopsies are common procedures performed in a dermatology office that help us to diagnose and learn more about skin lesions and rashes. We take a small piece of skin to look at under a microscope to see helpful details that aren’t visible to the naked eye. It sounds a bit scary but we make the process as safe and painless as possible. Continue listening to learn more about what having a biopsy in our office entails.

Two Types of Biopsies

There are two types of biopsies – a shave biopsy and a punch biopsy. A shave biopsy is performed with a scalpel, and leaves the skin to heal with a shallow abrasion just slightly larger than the lesion being removed or sampled. This is most commonly used to remove raised lesions and moles that are over 3 mm in size.

A punch biopsy uses a circular tool, generally 2 – 3 mm in diameter, to take a perfectly circular plug of skin. The site is left open to heal because it is so small stitches are not required. We use this for smaller moles and for samples of rashes.

What to Expect

The first step in taking a biopsy is cleaning the area we will be working on with alcohol to reduce the chance of infection. Next, the area is numbed. This does involve a needle stick but the anesthetic works very fast and you are numb before you know it! During the procedure you may feel a bit of pressure, but no sharp pain. The process of performing the skin removal takes only seconds.

Immediately after the sample is collected, we address any bleeding that may have occurred. Most frequently, we apply a small amount of liquid that helps to seal the blood vessels, but in areas with a lot of blood flow (like the scalp and face) or when patients are on blood thinning medications, a cautery device that uses heat to seal vessels is used and followed by a pressure dressing.

You leave with a bandage on the site that should remain dry and in place for 24 hours. After that, you are free to shower as normal and no wound care is required. The only restriction is that we ask you to stay out of other water sources, such as lakes and hot tubs, for about 2 weeks to avoid contamination. Sites are generally well-healed in 2 weeks and the office reaches out to you with a phone call to notify you of the results. 

If you would like additional information, visit TCOhio.com. To schedule an appointment, call us at 330.725.0569. 

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