A skin biopsy is a test to determine either the presence or the absence of an illness. It involves removing a piece of skin which is then sent to the laboratory for testing. It is used as a tool to diagnose diseases of the skin such as bacterial or fungal infections or other skin conditions such as a melanoma.
In cases of skin lesions, a skin lesion biopsy will involve a removal of a mole or tumor. Microscopic examination of the excised tissue will then reveal whether the lesion or mole is cancerous or benign.
A skin biopsy is also referred to as a skin lesion biopsy, punch biopsy or shave biopsy depending on the type of biopsy performed.
Types of skin biopsies include:
A skin biopsy procedure will depend on the location and the size of the skin lesion.
For the removal of an entire lesion an anesthetic is first injected into the area to numb it. The entire lesion or lump is then cut out with a scalpel, with the doctor going in as deep as required. The skin is then closed using stitches with pressure being applied to the area to prevent bleeding. In case the area operated upon is large, a skin graft may be required to cover it. This form of a biopsy is known as an excisional biopsy.
In cases where there is a large growth on the skin such as a mole or a tumor, a biopsy may be performed by cutting away a part of the growth. This is done only after administering local anesthesia to numb the biopsy site. Stitches may be required after such a procedure known as an incisional biopsy.
Treatment for the rest of the growth can commence once the skin biopsy results come in.
A different procedure may be used in case the lesion or sore is located at a deeper level. This method involves the removal of a small cylindrical portion of skin using a sharp hollow instrument. Stitches may be required to close the incision if the area removed is large. This type of a biopsy is known as a punch biopsy.
At times, the doctor may require a less invasive procedure that removes only the surface and the outermost layers of the lesion. This procedure is known as a shave biopsy and is the least invasive of all biopsies. It does not require any stitches afterwards.
Skin lesions that are not solid but are filled with a fluid will be aspirated using a syringe and a needle. The aspirated fluid is then sent to the laboratory for analysis.
A skin biopsy will be covered by your health insurer. For those who are not covered by health insurance, the cost will vary depending on the type of biopsy and place where it is conducted. The cost of a skin biopsy will range from $150 to $1000. Usually, biopsies conducted in a doctor's office will be cheaper than surgical biopsies.
Before undergoing a skin biopsy test, you should inform your doctor about any allergies that you may have as well as any other conditions you may have. The test itself will be brief. All you may feel are a slight prick in case anesthesia is administered and a slight tenderness after the procedure.
Skin biopsies are usually required to diagnose chronic skin infections, growths such as moles, cancers and other skin conditions.
A diagnosis of the skin biopsy results can be made once the results are declared. Your doctor will be the best person to guide you in the interpretation of the results. Once the results are declared, a course of treatment can be decided upon.