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Indiana Podiatry Group
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What A Skin Biopsy Could Reveal to Your Podiatrist

Skin biopsies are an important diagnostic tool that are used to determine the nature of a specific piece of skin. Many diseases can affect the skin, and often the visual symptoms are not easily distinguished from one another. Some cancers can appear as common maladies, and some common skin disorders can be difficult to tell apart, making treatment difficult. By looking at the tissue under a microscope, an accurate diagnosis can be made and the proper treatment can begin. In cases of skin cancer, this can be potentially lifesaving.

There are two common skin biopsy techniques in use. The first biopsy technique is called a shave biopsy. In this technique, the skin is cleansed and a small amount of local anesthetic is injected under the skin. A straight blade similar to a razor blade is used to remove a small piece of the top layer of the skin, essentially creating a scrape. This piece is then sent to a pathologist where the tissue is placed in wax, and very thin slices are cut through it to study under a microscope using special stains.

The second technique is called a punch biopsy. In this technique, the skin is cleansed and a small amount of local anesthetic is injected under the skin. Using a sharp boring (or punch) device, a small core of skin is removed. This core contains all the layers of the skin, and is useful for studying skin lesions such as suspected melanomas, where the depth of cancer invasion is important. After the core is removed, the skin is either secured with medical tape or a suture, depending on the size of the core removed. Like in shave biopsies, this piece is then sent to a pathologist where the tissue is placed in wax, and very thin slices are cut through it to study under a microscope using special stains. The skin quickly heals, and the resulting biopsy results help guide the proper treatment.