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Skin Biopsy in Children


A skin biopsy

is a procedure used to remove a small piece of skin for testing. The type of biopsy your child needs will depend on the condition the healthcare provider wants to test for. Common conditions include cancer, a skin condition such as eczema, rash, or a skin infection. Your child may need to have treatment depending on the results of the skin biopsy tests.

What you can do to help your child prepare for a skin biopsy:

Depending on your child's age, he or she may want to know what to expect. Your child will be awake during the procedure. This may cause him or her to feel anxious about the procedure. Explain that medicine will be used to keep your child from feeling any pain. If your child is old enough, you might want to explain each step that is going to happen. Your child's healthcare provider will give you any specific instructions for preparing your child. This may include not putting lotion or sunscreen on the area.

What will happen during your child's skin biopsy:

  • Your child's healthcare provider will clean the skin where he or she will do the biopsy. He or she will use a local anesthetic medicine to make your child more comfortable during the procedure. This medicine is a shot put into the skin that will numb the area, and dull the pain. Your child may still feel pressure or pushing during the procedure after or she gets this medicine. You may be able to stay in the room with your child during this procedure.
  • The procedure will depend on the type of biopsy your child has:
    • A punch biopsy is used to take the whole thickness of a small, round piece of skin. The punch tool will be placed on the area where the skin sample will be taken. Your child's healthcare provider will move and press the punch downward to cut the skin. Once the skin is loosened, the provider will pull it up, and cut it out. Stitches are used to close the wound.
    • A shave biopsy is used to scrape off a top layer of skin. Your child's healthcare provider will first inject medicine into the skin. This will cause the area to be raised. The provider will use a blade or other tool to scrape or shave off the raised area of skin.
    • An excisional biopsy is used if your child has a growth or sore that needs to be tested for cancer. The provider will cut the growth off the skin. Layers of skin and fat may be taken. The area will be closed with stitches.
    • An incisional biopsy is also used to test for cancer, but only part of a growth or sore is removed. Your child's healthcare provider will cut part of the growth out. The area may need to be closed with stitches.
  • Your child's healthcare provider may put medicine on the wound to stop the area from bleeding. The skin sample will be sent to a lab for tests.

What will happen after your child's skin biopsy:

A bandage will cover the biopsy area to keep it clean and dry. The bandage will help to protect the area from infection. When the procedure is over, your child may be able to go home. He or she may have some bleeding, oozing, redness, or swelling after the biopsy. These are normal. He or she may also have pain during the first 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. The area may be closed with strips of medical tape instead of stitches. Leave the strips in place. They will fall off on their own in about 7 to 10 days.

Risks of a skin biopsy:

A skin biopsy may cause your child to bleed from the biopsy area, or get an infection. He or she may have bruising, swelling, or pain in the area where the biopsy was done. Your child may have scarring from where the skin tissue was removed. He or she may have an allergic response from the numbing medicine used for the procedure.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child has red lines on his or her skin coming from the wound area.
  • Blood soaks through your child's bandage.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has increased swelling, redness, or bleeding from the wound.
  • Your child has pain that does not go away, or is not helped by pain medicines.
  • Your child has pus in the wound, or yellow or green drainage coming out of the wound.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child may need any of the following:

  • NSAIDs , such as ibuprofen, help decrease swelling, pain, and fever. This medicine is available with or without a doctor's order. NSAIDs can cause stomach bleeding or kidney problems in certain people. If your child takes blood thinner medicine, always ask if NSAIDs are safe for him or her. Always read the medicine label and follow directions. Do not give these medicines to children under 6 months of age without direction from your child's healthcare provider.
  • Acetaminophen decreases pain and fever. It is available without a doctor's order. Ask how much to give your child and how often to give it. Follow directions. Read the labels of all other medicines your child uses to see if they also contain acetaminophen, or ask your child's doctor or pharmacist. Acetaminophen can cause liver damage if not taken correctly.
  • Prescription pain medicine may be given. Ask your healthcare provider how to give this medicine safely. Some prescription pain medicines contain acetaminophen. Do not give your child other medicines that contain acetaminophen without talking to a healthcare provider. Too much acetaminophen may cause liver damage. Prescription pain medicine may cause constipation. Ask your child's healthcare provider how to prevent or treat constipation.
  • Do not give aspirin to children under 18 years of age. Your child could develop Reye syndrome if he takes aspirin. Reye syndrome can cause life-threatening brain and liver damage. Check your child's medicine labels for aspirin, salicylates, or oil of wintergreen.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Wound care:

Check the wound for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or pus. Carefully wash the wound with soap and water. Dry the area and put on new, clean bandages as directed. Change your child's bandages when they get wet or dirty.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider or dermatologist as directed:

Your child may need to return to have his or her stitches removed. The results of your child's biopsy are usually ready within 10 days of the procedure. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.