What is a Shave Biopsy?

Shave biopsy is one of the most widely used procedures performed in dermatology practices. The technique is used to obtain tissue for testing, and is useful for removing superficial lesions in their entirety. Pedunculated (elongated) lesions above the skin surface are particularly well suited for this removal technique, however flat lesions that are higher in the dermis may also be removed by shave technique. There are three main types of skin biopsies:

Shave biopsy—outer part of affected area is removed
Punch biopsy—a small cylinder of skin is removed using a punch tool
Excisional biopsy—an entire area of abnormal skin is removed

In shave biopsies, your doctor uses a tool similar to a razor to remove a small section of the top layers of skin (epidermis and a portion of the dermis). The depth of the incision varies depending on the type of biopsy and the part of the body being biopsied. After the biopsy procedure, your doctor sends the sample to a laboratory for testing. Depending on the skin condition, type of biopsy and the laboratory procedures, results may take several days or a couple of weeks. Results of biopsies for metabolic or genetic testing can take several months or more.

A skin biopsy is a generally safe procedure, but complications can occur, including: bleeding, bruising, scarring, infection, and allergic reaction.

Your doctor may instruct you to keep the bandage over the biopsy site until the next day. 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. All biopsies cause a small scar. Some people develop a prominent, raised scar. The risk of this is increased when a biopsy is done on the neck or upper torso, such as the back or chest. Initially, the scar will be pink and then fade to white or sometimes brown. Scars fade gradually. The scar's permanent color will be evident one or two years after the biopsy. Healing of the wound can take several weeks, but is usually complete within two months. Wounds on legs and feet tend to heal slower than those on other areas of the body.

Dr. Cindy N. Berthelot, M.D. is a board certified dermatologist treating patients in the greater Houston community, including Clearlake, League City, Friendswood, Pasadena, Deer Park, Dickinson, Pearland, Alvin, Seabrook, Kemah, Webster, Galveston, Texas City, La Marque, and Santa Fe, Texas. To make an appointment with Dr. Berthelot, please contact us at 281.480.7272.