- Skin Biopsy Center
- Adult Skin Problems Slideshow
- Quiz: Is Ringworm Contagious?
- Gallery of Skin Problems Pictures
- Patient Comments: Skin Biopsy - Indications
- Find a local Dermatologist in your town
What is a skin biopsy?
A skin biopsy is the removal of a piece of skin for the purpose of further examination in the laboratory using a microscope. Skin biopsies are performed to diagnose a number of conditions. Biopsies are not meant to actually treat a skin condition.
Why is a skin biopsy performed?
Skin biopsy is most frequently done to diagnose a skin growth such as a mole, or a skin condition such as a rash. A skin biopsy can also be used to diagnose a cancer of the skin. A skin biopsy may be indicated when a mole or other marking on the skin has changed in its shape, color, or size.
What methods are used to obtain a skin biopsy?
Different techniques are used in different situations. Typically the biopsies are obtained after using local anesthetics to numb the area to be biopsied.
- A shave biopsy takes a thin slice off the top of the skin to be examined under the microscope.
- A punch biopsy takes a core (a small cylindrical fragment of tissue from the area of interest) and can be used to diagnose rashes and other conditions.
- Excisions are usually larger and deeper and are used to completely remove an abnormal area of skin such as a skin cancer. These are not technically biopsies since the goal of this procedure is to remove the whole lesion rather than to remove a small portion to make a diagnosis.
What happens to the skin sample after the biopsy is removed?
After the biopsy, the skin sample is fixed in special solution, and thin sections of the tissue are cut and placed on microscope slides. The slides are stained for examination by a doctor (usually a dermatologist or pathologist). Sometimes specialized stains are used to examine for antibodies, immune proteins, and other markers of certain diseases. Initial routine biopsy results can be obtained in 48 hours or less, while specialized staining techniques can require a longer time until final results are available.
Quick GuideSkin & Health: How Your Skin Reveals Health Problems
Daily Health News
Skin Problems and Treatments Resources
Subscribe to MedicineNet's Skin Care & Conditions Newsletter
Alguire, Patrick C., M.D. Et al. "Skin biopsy techniques." UptoDate.com. Updated Nov. 2, 2015.
Top Skin Biopsy Related Articles
AmyloidosisAmyloidosis is a group of diseases resulting from abnormal deposition of certain proteins (amyloids) in various bodily areas. The amyloid proteins may either be deposited in one particular area of the body (localized amyloidosis) or they may be deposited throughout the body (systemic amyloidosis). There are three types of systemic amyloidosis: primary (AL), secondary (AA), and familial (ATTR). Primary amyloidosis is not associated with any other diseases and is considered a disease entity of its own. Secondary amyloidosis occurs as a result of another illness. Familial Mediterranean Fever is a form of familial (inherited) amyloidosis. Amyloidosis treatment involves treating the underlying illness and correcting organ failure.
Athlete's FootAthlete's foot (tinea pedis) is a skin infection caused by the ringworm fungus. Symptoms include itching, burning, cracking, peeling, and bleeding feet. Treatment involves keeping the feet dry and clean, wearing shoes that can breathe, and using medicated powders to keep your feet dry.
Atopic DermatitisEczema is a general term for many types dermatitis (skin inflammation). Atopic dermatitis is the most common of the many types of eczema. Other types of eczema include: contact eczema, allergic contact eczema, seborrheic eczema, nummular eczema, stasis dermatitis, and. dyshidrotic eczema.
Bullous PemphigoidBullous pemphigoid is a skin disease that causes blistering eruptions on the skin's surface and sometimes affects the inner lining of the mouth. Symptoms include severe itching and burning sensations. Treatment involves topical cortisone and sometimes high doses of cortisone. Severe cases may require immune-suppression drugs such as azathioprine.
Dysplastic Nevus PictureAn atypical mole whose appearance is different from that of a common ordinary mole. See a picture of Dysplastic Nevus and learn more about the health topic.
Eosinophilic FasciitisEosinophilic fasciitis is a skin disease that causes thickening and inflammation of the skin and fascia. Symptoms include redness, warmth, and hardening of the skin, as well as occasional tissue and joint pain. Treatment for eosinophilic fasciitis aims to eliminate inflammation through the use of aspirin, NSAIDs, and cortisone. Aggressive forms of eosinophilic fasciitis may require the use of immune-suppression medications.
Henoch-Schonlein PurpuraHenoch-Schonlein Purpura (HSP or anaphylactoid purpura), a type of blood vessel inflammation, results in rash, arthritis, and occasional abdominal cramping. HSP often resolves on its own. Joint pain may be treated with anti-inflammatory and cortisone medications.
Marfan syndrome is hereditary (genetic) condition affecting connective tissue. A person with Marfan syndrome may exhibit the following symptoms and characteristics:
- Dislocation of one or both lenses of the eye
- A protruding or indented breastbone
- Flat feet
- Aortic dilatation
- Dural ectasia (a problem with the sac surrounding the spinal cord)
- Stretch marks
- Collapsed lung
Though there is no cure for Marfan syndrome, there are treatments that can minimize and sometimes prevent some complications.
MelanomaMelanoma is a type of skin cancer which begins in skin cells called melanocytes and affects more than 53,600 people in the United States each year. These melanocytes can grow together to form benign moles which, after a change in size, shape, or color can be a sign of melanoma. Caused by sun exposure, early detection becomes extremely important to avoid a spread to other areas of the body. Diagnosis is confirmed through a biopsy of the abnormal skin and treatment depends on the extent and characteristics of the patient. Metastatic melanoma is melanoma that has spread to various organs.
MelioidosisMelioidosis (Whitmore's disease) is an infectious disease caused by Burkholderia pseudomallei bacteria. Symptoms include bronchitis, pneumonia, fever, headache, loss of appetite, cough, and chest pain. Treatment involves antibiotics or surgical removal of the lung abscess in severe cases.
Men's Cancer SymptomsSee pictures of which 15 cancer symptoms men ignore such as skin changes, difficulty swallowing, rapid weight loss, a breast mass, and more. Learn possible clues to finding and detecting cancer early.
PsoriasisPsoriasis is a long-term skin condition that may cause large plaques of red, raised skin, flakes of dry skin, and skin scales. There are several types of psoriasis, including psoriasis vulgaris, guttate psoriasis, inverse psoriasis, and pustular psoriasis. Symptoms vary depending on the type of psoriasis the patient has. Treatment of psoriasis may include creams, lotions, oral medications, injections and infusions of biologics, and light therapy. There is no cure for psoriasis.
Skin Cancer SlideshowDiscover the causes, types, and treatments of skin cancer. Learn how to prevent skin cancer and how to check for melanoma, basal cell carcinoma, and squamous cell carcinoma. Also, find out how to spot the early signs of skin cancer.
Take the Skin QuizWhat's that all over you? Skin, of course! Test your knowledge of your most amazing organ with the Skin Quiz!
Female Cancer SymptomsCancer symptoms can surprise women if they don't know what to watch out for. 15 cancer symptoms women ignore such as weight loss, bloating, breast changes, unusual bleeding, skin changes, difficulty swallowing, indigestion, and more. Learn possible clues to finding and detecting cancer early.