Dr. Hina Altaf Dermatologist

Biopsy Procedures

Biopsy Procedures

While dermatologists are able to diagnose many types of skin lesions just by looking at them, certain skin conditions need a more detailed analysis called a biopsy (a dermatologist will surgically remove a small portion of your skin to be further analyzed)

The type of biopsy you are being recommended will depend on the location, size, and depth of the skin lesion:

  • A shave biopsy removes a sample from the top layers of skin with a razor blade or scalpel (a small cutting blade used for surgery). Your provider will do a shave biopsy if your condition appears to involve only the top layers of the skin.
  • A punch biopsy uses a special tool with a round blade to remove the skin sample. Your provider will do a punch biopsy if your condition appears to involve the deep layers of skin.
  • An excisional biopsy uses a scalpel to remove all of the skin lesions, usually with some normal skin around it. The sample may include the full thickness of the skin along with fat below the skin.


While the word biopsy in itself is a scary word for most of patients, mainly due to it being associated with cancer, it is good to know that your doctor might opt for a biopsy to help diagnose a variety of inflammatory skin conditions as well

Once the biopsy is done (15-20 min), the dermatologist will send it to a lab, where a doctor will examine it under a microscope. After making the diagnosis, a dermatopathologist writes a report that explains the medical findings. Your dermatologist will review this report to determine if you need further treatment and will call you to discuss it with you. Typically, it will take 5 to 7 days from the biopsy till the report is issued.

Why do I need a skin biopsy?

You may need a skin biopsy if you have certain skin symptoms, such as:

  • A rash that doesn’t go away
  • Scaly or rough skin
  • Open sores that won’t heal
  • A mole or skin growth that has changed in its shape, color, or size
  • A mole or new growth that has the “A-B-C-D-Es” of melanoma:
    • Asymmetrical– the shape is not regular
    • Border– the edge is jagged
    • Color– the color is uneven
    • Diameter– the size is larger than a pea
    • Evolving– the mole or growth has changed in the past few weeks or months
  • Blistering skin, which may be a sign of pemphigus, an autoimmune disease


What to expect when going for a biopsy:

  1. Before the biopsy: Discuss with your doctor if you need to take any special steps to prepare for it. Sometimes, if the patient is on certain medication (ex: blood thinner), the dermatologist might advise to stop the medication few hours prior to the procedure.
  1. During the procedure:The biopsy is being done under local anesthesia and will take 15 minutes. Your dermatologist will give you an injection to numb the area. While your dermatologist is injecting, you may feel some burning or stinging. Once the area has been numbed, your dermatologist will proceed to remove a portion of the affected skin. If you had either a punch or excision biopsy, your dermatologist may close the wound with stitches.
  1. After procedure care: You need to keep the wound covered for as long as your dermatologist recommends.


In all cases, recovery is very fast and painless, and the scarring is usually minimal.

Minimal Downtime

You can return to your daily routine immediately after

Immediate Results

Results within 24 to 48 hours, with full results in 30 days

Painless Procedure

Brief period of discomfort during the injection, similar to a pinch

Results That Last

Effects typically last for several months

A skin biopsy is a medical procedure in which a small piece of skin tissue is removed for examination and analysis. It is performed to diagnose or rule out various skin conditions, including skin cancers, inflammatory skin disorders, infections, and autoimmune diseases.
A skin biopsy is necessary when a dermatologist or healthcare provider suspects a skin condition that cannot be diagnosed based on visual examination alone. It helps determine the exact nature of the skin abnormality, identify the underlying cause, and guide appropriate treatment planning.
There are different methods of performing a skin biopsy, depending on the suspected condition and the size and location of the lesion. The most common types of skin biopsies include shave biopsy, punch biopsy, and excisional biopsy. Local anesthesia is typically used to numb the area before the procedure.
Most skin biopsies involve minimal discomfort. The local anesthesia used during the procedure helps numb the area, so you should not feel significant pain. You may experience a slight stinging or pricking sensation during the injection of the anesthesia, but the biopsy itself should be painless.
After the skin biopsy, the wound is usually covered with a sterile dressing or sutures, depending on the type of biopsy performed. You will receive specific instructions on how to care for the biopsy site and manage any discomfort. The extracted skin tissue is sent to a laboratory for examination under a microscope, and the results are typically available within a few days to a couple of weeks.

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Dr. Hinah Altaf’s clinic is currently at Gargash Hospital, 145 Umm Suqeim Street – Umm Al Sheif -Dubai.