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Skin Biopsy

Understanding the need for a skin biopsy can be an unsettling experience. Here at St John & Elizabeth Hospital, we are committed to providing compassionate and expert care every step of the way. A skin biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of skin is removed for examination to diagnose a variety of conditions, including skin diseases, infections, and cancer.

Also known as: Dermatological Biopsy, Cutaneous Biopsy


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Everything You Need to Know

A skin biopsy is a critical tool in dermatology, allowing our specialists to examine the tissue closely under a microscope to diagnose the cause of an abnormal area on the skin. There are several types of skin biopsies – shave biopsy, punch biopsy, and excisional biopsy – each chosen based on the suspected condition. The procedure is usually quick, performed under local anaesthetic, and is instrumental in determining the right course of treatment for you.

If you’re considering a skin biopsy or your GP has suggested you may need one, here’s what you need to know about the procedure at St John & Elizabeth Hospital.

Before the Procedure

Preparing for a skin biopsy is straightforward, yet essential for a smooth process and accurate diagnosis. Our team at St John & Elizabeth Hospital will guide you through every step, ensuring you’re fully informed and comfortable with the upcoming procedure.

Pre-assessment and Consultation

Initially, you’ll have a consultation with one of our dermatological specialists. During this time, your doctor will discuss your medical history, the reasons for the biopsy, and any symptoms you’re experiencing. This is an excellent opportunity to ask questions and express any concerns you might have.

Instructions Before the Procedure

  • Medication Review: Inform your doctor about any medications, supplements, or over-the-counter drugs you’re taking, as some might need to be adjusted or temporarily stopped, especially if they affect blood clotting, such as aspirin or ibuprofen.
  • Skin Preparation: Depending on the biopsy site, you may be advised to avoid applying lotions or creams on the day of the procedure.
  • Eating and Drinking: There are usually no restrictions on eating and drinking before a skin biopsy unless advised otherwise by your doctor.

On the Day of the Procedure

  • Wear comfortable clothing that allows easy access to the area being biopsied.
  • You might want to arrange for someone to accompany you, offering support and assistance if needed.

Our dedicated team will ensure you understand all pre-procedure instructions and answer any questions, making your experience as comfortable and stress-free as possible.

During the Procedure

Here’s what you can expect during your skin biopsy:

Arrival and Preparation

Upon arrival, you will be greeted by our friendly staff who will confirm your details, review your consent, and prepare you for the procedure. This preparation might include cleaning the biopsy site and outlining the area with a surgical marker.

Local Anaesthetic

A local anaesthetic will be applied to the area where the biopsy will be taken. This is to ensure you feel no pain during the procedure. You might feel a slight pinch or sting when the anaesthetic is injected, but this discomfort is brief.

The Biopsy Process

  • Shave biopsy: A small blade is used to shave off the top layers of skin.
  • Punch biopsy: A circular tool is used to remove a small core of skin, including deeper layers.
  • Excisional biopsy: A scalpel is used to remove an entire lump or an area of abnormal skin, including a portion of normal skin down to the fatty layer of skin.

The method used depends on the type of skin condition being investigated. The procedure typically takes only a few minutes.

After the Biopsy

Once the sample is collected, the site will be cleaned and a dressing will be applied. Stitches may be required, particularly if an excisional biopsy has been performed. Our team will provide you with aftercare instructions to ensure proper healing.

After the Procedure

Recovery and care following a skin biopsy are crucial for healing and for obtaining accurate results. At St John & Elizabeth Hospital, we are committed to supporting you through your recovery journey.

Immediate Aftercare

  • Wound Care: Follow the wound care instructions provided by your doctor meticulously. This might include keeping the biopsy site dry and clean, and applying prescribed ointments or dressings.
  • Monitoring: Keep an eye on the biopsy site for any signs of infection such as increased redness, swelling, or pus. Though rare, it’s important to contact us immediately if you notice any of these symptoms.
  • Pain Management: If you experience discomfort, over-the-counter pain relief medication can help. However, please consult your doctor before taking any medication to ensure it’s safe for you.

Follow-Up and Results

  • Appointment: You’ll likely have a follow-up appointment to discuss the biopsy results and next steps. Results typically take a few days to a couple of weeks, depending on the complexity of the analysis.
  • Understanding Your Results: Your dermatologist will explain the results, what they mean for your health, and any recommended treatments or further investigations.

How to pay for your treatment

If you’re… paying for yourself

Did you know you don’t need private medical insurance to come to St John & St Elizabeth Hospital? As a self-pay patient, you can access safe, outstanding quality health care at times to suit you.

For scans and tests, as well as to see most consultants, you’ll still need to be referred by a medical professional like your GP, but as a self-pay patient, the process is more straightforward. You won’t need authorisation from an insurance provider, and you’ll have greater choice of consultant and appointment times.

If you’re… insured

St John & St Elizabeth Hospital is approved by all major medical insurance companies. If you have a personal private health insurance policy, or your company provide it for you, you can use it to pay for your care from your initial consultation through to treatment, surgery and aftercare such as physiotherapy. Not all private health insurance plans cover the same things. It’s very important to check exactly what you are covered for with your insurance provider.

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