Surgical Procedures

The biopsy site is numb and the patient shouldn't feel any pain or discomfort during the skin biopsy. The site is numbed using a local anesthetic at the biopsy site. This is usually given by injection with a thin needle.

What you can expect during your skin biopsy depends on the type of biopsy you'll undergo.

  • For a shave biopsy, your doctor uses a sharp tool, double-edged razor or scalpel to cut the tissue. The depth of the incision varies depending on the type of biopsy and the part of the body being biopsied. A shave biopsy causes bleeding. Bleeding is stopped by applying pressure to the area or by a combination of pressure and a topical medication applied to the biopsy site.

Occasionally, the biopsy site bleeds after you leave the doctor's office. This is more likely in people taking blood-thinning medications. If this occurs, apply direct pressure to the wound for 10 to 20 minutes.

Sometimes a punch biopsy needs to be performed because a shave biopsy is inappropriate . For example lesions on the lip or in sites with difficult access.

Skin Excision

This technique involves removing a skin lesion in the deeper levels of the skin down to the fatty layer under the skin. A small amount of normal tissue surrounding the lesion may be removed to ensure it is clear of any possible cancer cells (clear margins). It is more likely to be done when there is a concern about a skin cancer.

  • Most often, an area the shape of an ellipse is removed, as this makes it easier to close with stitches.
  • The entire lesion is removed, going as deep as the fat, if needed, to get the whole area. A margin of about 3 to 4 millimeters (mm) surrounding the tumor may also be removed to ensure clear margins.


The area is closed with stitches. If a large area is removed, a skin graft or flap of normal skin may be used to replace the skin that was removed.

Cryotherapy is a method of super-freezing tissue in order to destroy it. It may be used to destroy or remove warts, actinic keratoses, solar keratoses, and molluscum contagiosum.

Cryotherapy is done using a spray that has liquid nitrogen flowing through it. The procedure usually takes less than a minute.