A skin biopsy can be performed via three different methods. The location, size, and depth of the skin lesion will determine the type of biopsy you will undergo:

  • Punch biopsy: This removes a skin sample using a tool with a round blade. Your dermatologist will perform a punch biopsy if the skin growth or changes appears to involve the deeper layers of the skin.
  • Shave biopsy: The dermatologist will use a razor-like tool to remove a small part of the top layers of skin (epidermis and a portion of the dermis).
  • Excisional biopsy: A small knife called a scalpel will be used by the dermatologist to remove an entire lump or patch of abnormal skin, including a section of normal skin beside and underneath it.

Skin Biopsy Procedure

A skin biopsy is a quick and easy outpatient diagnostic procedure that usually takes only 10 to 15 minutes to complete. Your dermatologist will explain to you why the procedure is needed, how it is done, and the risks involved, and ask for your consent to undergo it.

  • Before a skin biopsy

    Your dermatologist will clean the area being biopsied with a disinfectant. A local anesthetic will then be injected into the area to make it numb.

  • During a skin biopsy

    Once your skin has become numb, your dermatologist will remove a small sample of skin affected by using a puncher, razor, or scalpel. A few stitches might be needed afterward.

  • After a skin biopsy

    The area will be covered with bandages and instructions will be given to you on how to take care of the wound.

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Skin Biopsy Aftercare

Taking care of your biopsy wound is important so that it won’t develop an infection.

  • Keep it clean

    Wash your hands before and after handling your wound. Wash the biopsy area gently with mild soap and water. Thoroughly rinse and pat dry with a clean washcloth.

  • Apply petroleum jelly

    After confirming it with your dermatologist, apply petroleum jelly from a squeeze tube to the wound to keep it wet and help it heal faster.

  • Cover the wound

    Cover the wound with an adhesive bandage or sterile gauze and paper tape to avoid exposure to germs.

  • Do not use topical antibiotics

    Unless otherwise directed by your dermatologist, do not apply antibiotics on the wound since doing so might induce an adverse response.

  • Treat any bleeding

    If your wound begins to bleed, apply firm pressure with a sterile gauze pad for 20 minutes. If your wound is still bleeding by then, contact your dermatologist.

  • Address any pain

    It is normal for the wound site to have some pain. When the pain cannot be tolerated, take a pain reliever or place an ice compress over your bandage.

  • Protect your wound from sun exposure

    After your wound heals, avoid significant scarring by applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen and wearing a hat or clothes that can cover it when going outside.

Dr Noor Hanif Said

Medical Director & Consultant Dermatologist

Over 20 years of experience
in medical, Surgical & aesthetic Dermatology

  • Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS, Singapore)
  • Membership of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP, United Kingdom)
  • Fellow Of The Academy of Medicine, Singapore (FAMS, Dermatology)

Prior to starting his private practice at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, Dr Hanif was a dermatologist at the National Skin Centre and a Visiting Consultant with the Khoo Teck Puat Hospital Dermatology Service.

Apart from his expertise in the management of general dermatological problems such as eczema, psoriasis, hair loss and acne, he has special interests in pigmentary disorders and aesthetic dermatology.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Will there be bleeding after the skin biopsy procedure?

    A small amount of bleeding occurs at the site of the biopsy, which can linger for a few to several days. Ask your dermatologist about the expected quantity of bleeding. If you notice any other symptoms such as fever, swelling, significant pain, pus, or redness at the biopsy site, contact your dermatologist right away.

    What are the risks of undergoing a skin biopsy?

    The procedure of a skin biopsy is generally safe but the following may occur:

    • Persistent bleeding
    • Bruising
    • Scarring
    • Infection of the wound
    • Allergic reaction to a topical antibiotic, if prescribed, or to the disinfectant solution, tape, or bandages used