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Skin Biopsy in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.

What is a skin biopsy?

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 can I do to help my 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 my child's skin biopsy?

  • Your child's healthcare provider will clean the skin where he or she will do the biopsy. The provider 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 he 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. When 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 my 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.

What are the 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.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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.

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Further information

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