Minor Operation / Biopsy
Skin biopsy is the most commonly performed dermatological investigation. Here are some frequently asked questions:
What is a biopsy?
It is the removal of all or part of a diseased area of skin under local anaesthesia, either to find out the cause of the problem or to treat the condition.
Is there a long wait?
Please try to arrive a few minutes early, as this helps the list to run smoothly and minimise delays. However, delays can occur since the lists are heavily booked to meet the demand. It is a good idea to bring something to read just in case.
Does it hurt?
The anaesthetic, which is given by injection into the skin, stings a bit and that is the worst part of the procedure. After that, the area of skin becomes numb. This stops any pain, but you may be aware of the sensation of touch or pulling of your skin.
How long does the biopsy take?
The procedure normally takes between 10-30 minutes. Occasionally it may take a bit longer, depending on the size of the lesion.
Will I need stitches?
After most biopsies, stitches are used to close the wound. If you have a shave biopsy, curettage and cautery, the bleeding sites can be sealed by cautery. If this is the case, the doctor will explain this to you.
How many stitches will I have?
The number of stitches depends upon the size of the piece of skin taken away.
Will the stitches dissolve?
Unfortunately only non-dissolvable stitches can be used on the skin. They are later removed at the hospital, or by the Practice Nurse at your GP’s surgery.
Does it leave a scar?
Any operation will leave a scar. If you have something removed because you do not like the way it looks, remember that it will scar.
How long does the anaesthetic last?
It sometimes takes a couple of hours or more after surgery to wear off. If the wound or area around it becomes sore after the anaesthetic wears off, Paracetemol can be of great help. Do not take more that the dose recommended on the packet.
Can I get wet?
This also depends on the type of biopsy done, but with stitched wounds it is better to keep them dry until the stitches are removed. If by chance they do get wet, clean the wound with antiseptic (eg Savlon) and change the dressing.
What if the site starts to bleed when I am home?
Apply firm pressure for fifteen minutes. In the case of a leg, it is helpful to lie down and elevate the limb. In the unlikely event that the bleeding continues contact the hospital you were operated in. During normal hours, the outpatients team, and out of hours, the Ward Sister, will be available for assistance.
What are the signs of infection?
Features of infection are increasing redness, swelling, pain and discharge. Please contact the hospital or your GP. Please note that if the wound is itchy, this is a sign that healing is occurring.
Can I continue with my sport activities?
Those without stitches can continue with their sports activities, but those with stitches are restricted from sports activities until a few days after the stitches have been removed.