After your skin biopsy

Skin biopsy

Painkillers for any pain or discomfort

The local anaesthetic starts to wear off about 30 to 40 minutes after your skin biopsy procedure.

If you have any discomfort from your wound, take simple painkillers like paracetamol to help with this. Always follow the instructions on the packet and never take more than the recommended amount (dose).

It is important to check that the painkillers do not react with any other medicines you take. If you are unsure about this or have allergies to any medicines, speak to your pharmacist.

How to look after your wound

  • Keep your dressing dry for the first 24 to 48 hours, depending on the nurse’s instructions.
  • After this time, remove the dressing and wash the wound with soap and water (shampoo if on the scalp). Wash in a shower or by splashing the treated area with warm soapy water. The dressing might be easier to remove if you wet it first. Flowing water will help to remove any scabs that have formed.
  • Gently pat your wound dry. Do not rub it.
  • Apply a very thin layer of clean Vaseline® (or antibiotic ointment if it has been prescribed for you) directly over your wound or stitches with clean hands. Use a cotton bud if needed. This will help to keep the area clean and moist and will prevent scabs from forming.
  • Apply a waterproof (not fabric) plaster directly over the wound.
  • Repeat this routine each day until the stitches are removed by your practice nurse. If there are no stitches change the dressing each day until the wound has completely healed over.

Dissolvable stitches

Continue to check each day until they are dissolved. This can take 7 to 21 days. They are not normally a cause for concern but if you have any discomfort, you can get them removed by your GP or practice nurse.

Read more about stitches.

Non-dissolvable stitches

These will normally be removed between 5 and 14 days after surgery by your practice nurse, depending on the surgical site. Please make sure you arrange this well in advance with your surgery, and take the Removal of stitches form with you.

You might be asked to come back to this clinic for wound care. This will be arranged at the reception before you leave.

Read more about stitches.

Side effects

It is expected that your wound will be slightly red and tender to touch for the first couple of days after surgery.

Contact a GP as soon as possible if:

  • the wound becomes very painful
  • the wound is hot to touch
  • the area is red and swollen

You might need antibiotics for an infection. 

Bruising

This is common, especially if the area of your biopsy was close to your eyes. Bruising can last up to 2 weeks.

To help reduce bruising and swelling, you can apply a cold compress. Use an ice pack (or a pack of frozen vegetables) and apply to the biopsy site for 10 to 15 minutes, several times during the first 24 to 48 hours.

Never apply an ice pack directly to your skin. Always wrap in a towel first.

Bleeding

It is unlikely that your wound will bleed. If this happens, do not panic. Sit down and apply steady pressure by pressing firmly over the dressing for 15 minutes.

If you are at all worried, please contact a GP or NHS 111. 

Go straight to A&E or call 999 if:

  • you are bleeding uncontrollably, and it does not stop after pressing firmly on the dressing over your wound for 15 minutes

Smoking

Try to avoid smoking for the first couple of weeks after your surgery. Smoking significantly delays wound healing. It increases the risk of infection and can contribute to a more prominent scar.

If you would like help giving up smoking, please speak to your nurse or call our stop smoking service on 020 7188 0995.

Results and follow-up appointments

Please be aware that biopsy results can take 4 to 6 weeks. If you have not heard from us after 6 weeks, contact our skin cancer clinical nurse specialists on 020 7188 0041.

For other wound care queries, call 020 7188 6418, 9am to 5pm.

You will be given a follow-up appointment on the day of your biopsy if needed. 

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Contact us

If your surgery was done at the dermatological surgery and laser unit (DSLU) we offer an answerphone service.

Phone: 020 7188 6284 Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm.

Please leave a message with your name and telephone number, and someone will get back to you as soon as possible.

This is not an emergency service number.

In an emergency, please contact your GP or go to your nearest emergency department (A&E).

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Do you have any comments or concerns about your care?

Contact our Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS)

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