A biopsy is a procedure where a small piece of tissue is removed from an area so that it can be looked at closely under a microscope. Results usually take at least five working days as the tissue has to have dyes added to it (sort of like pickling an onion) before the tissue can be examined under the microscope. The biopsy may aim to remove an area completely (an excision biopsy). This is usually only appropriate for small lumps or swellings. Occasionally only a small piece of an abnormal area is removed to confirm a diagnosis (an incisional biopsy).
In most cases biopsies are carried out under local anaesthesia. The injection takes a few minutes to work and means that the biopsy will be painless. The biopsy usually leaves a small hole that often requires stitching. In the majority of cases the stitches used are dissolvable and take around two weeks to disappear.
There is relatively little in the way of pain or swelling after a biopsy. Occasionally it is necessary to take simple painkillers (Paracetamol). Any discomfort only lasts a few days.
There may be a little bleeding at the time of biopsy but this usually stops very quickly and is unlikely to be a problem if the wound is stitched. Should the biopsy site bleed again when you get home this can usually be stopped by applying pressure over the area for at least 10 minutes with a rolled up handkerchief or swab. .
The local anaesthetic usually takes 3- 4 hours to wear off .If you had a mouth biopsy it is important not to drink hot fluids, until sensation returns to normal, as you will burn the inside of your mouth. Also care is required if eating so as not to bite numb areas of your mouth. On the day of surgery you should avoid rinsing your mouth out vigorously as this may cause bleeding.
In mouth biopsies the stitches are dissolvable but the stitches used on facial skin biopsies are removed between 5 and 7 days. You are reviewed in clinic two weeks after the biopsy with the results.