Preparing for a Skin Biopsy: What Patients Should Know


Medically Reviewed by Dr. Lee Hwee Chyen

MBBS MRCP (UK) FAMS (Dermatology)

Preparing for a Skin Biopsy: What Patients Should Know

Introduction to Skin Biopsy

A skin biopsy is a medical procedure in which a small sample of skin tissue is removed for examination under a microscope. Depending on the characteristics of the lesion, different biopsies such as a shave biopsy, punch biopsy, or an excisional biopsy may be carried out.

The Purpose of a Skin Biopsy

The primary purpose of a skin biopsy is to diagnose skin conditions accurately when a visual examination of a skin lesion or abnormality is insufficient for a definitive diagnosis.

What to Expect Before a Biopsy

Before a biopsy, a consultation with the dermatologist is carried out, which may include:

  • Examination of the Lesion: The dermatologist will closely examine the skin lesion, typically using a dermatoscope, a tool that provides a magnified view of the skin’s surface.
  • Medical History Review: A review of the patient’s medical history is conducted to plan for the biopsy and avoid potential complications.
  • Discussion of the Biopsy Procedure: The dermatologist will explain the chosen biopsy type, the reasons for its selection, and what the procedure will entail.
  • Informed Consent: Patients will be provided with information about the risks and benefits of the procedure to ensure that they understand and agree to the biopsy.

Preparing for the Biopsy

Preparing well for a skin biopsy will ensure the procedure goes smoothly and can reduce the risk of complications.

Skin Care

Avoid applying lotions, creams, or other skin care products to the area where the biopsy will be performed to reduce the risk of infection.


Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing on the day of the biopsy, especially if the biopsy site is likely to be covered by clothing. Avoid wearing perfume to prevent irritation of the biopsy area post-procedure.

Medication and Supplements

Inform your dermatologist of all medications and supplements taken. Some medications, like blood thinners or certain supplements, may need to be paused under the guidance of your dermatologist to reduce the risk of bleeding.

Skin Biopsy Process

  1. Preparing the Biopsy Site: Before the procedure, the area around the lesion is cleaned, and a local anaesthetic is applied to numb the skin.
  2. Biopsy Procedure: The dermatologist typically removes the skin sample within a few minutes.
  3. Tissue Handling and Sending for Analysis: The collected tissue sample is preserved and sent to a pathology lab for microscopic examination.
  4. Wound Closure: After the biopsy, a dressing or sutures may be applied to the wound.

Potential Risks of Skin Biopsies

While skin biopsies are generally safe procedures, they carry potential risks and complications like any medical procedure.


Minor bleeding at the biopsy site is common, especially immediately after the procedure. However, significant bleeding is rare and can usually be controlled with simple pressure and topical treatments.


There is a small risk of infection at the biopsy site, which is minimized by proper wound care and hygiene. Signs of infection include redness, swelling, increased pain, and pus discharge, which require medical attention.


Biopsies may result in some form of scarring, which can be addressed with post-procedural skin care and treatments.

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