Understand potential risks of scarring in skin biopsies

A skin biopsy is a procedure which is commonly performed in dermatology clinical care and research.

It is to facilitate the diagnosis of or rule out skin conditions and diseases. It may also be used to remove skin lesions.

During the process, samples of the skin are removed and sent to the lab for analysis. This helps dermatologists to be able to see "beyond the surface" of the skin.

Risks of the procedure could include bleeding, bruising, infection and allergic reaction to the topical antibiotic used.

A risk which is frequently downplayed and misunderstood by the lay public is the risk of scarring, which can occur in the procedure.

The degree of scarring that takes place is often minor. However, it can become a lifelong agony and decrease the quality of life for some.

The extent, appearance and duration of scarring could differ greatly, depending on the ethnicity, heredity and age of the patient, and the location of the skin that is biopsied.

It is, hence, very important for anyone to go into an extended discussion with the medical practitioner performing the skin biopsy on the risks of scarring, in order to avoid a lifelong burden after the scarring has occurred.

Chua Shunjie (Dr)