Incisional & Excisional Biopsy

Author: Courtney Misher, MPH, BS R.T.(T)
Last Reviewed: August 23, 2022

An incisional biopsy is a medical test to remove a piece of tissue from a lesion or mass. The tissue is tested to find out what it is. An excisional biopsy is a medical test where the whole lesion or mass is removed and tested. Incisional and excisional biopsies are most often used for lesions involving the skin, breast, muscles, and lymph nodes.

How do I prepare for an incisional or excisional biopsy?

Depending on the size and location of the lesion or mass, you may be given medicine to make you sleepy. If this is the case, you will need to fast (not eat or drink) for 6-8 hours before the test. If you will not be sedated, typically numbing medicine is used, such as lidocaine, and there is no need to fast. Your provider will let you know if you need to fast or not.

If you are on blood thinners or take aspirin, your provider may have you stop taking them for a few days before the biopsy.

How is this test performed?

Incisional or excisional biopsies are done as an outpatient procedure (you will not stay overnight). Here is what you can expect during the test:

  • You will either be given medicine to make you sleepy or numbing medicine in the area that is being biopsied.
  • A small cut will be made in your skin using a sharp medical knife to access the area.
  • The tissue sample will be removed.
  • Depending on where the incision is and how large it is you may need stitches.
  • X-ray or ultrasound may be used to locate the area being biopsied.

What can I expect after my incisional or excisional biopsy?

If sedation was used, you will need to recover for an hour or two. You will need a ride home, as you will not be allowed to drive.

As the numbing medication wears off, you may have some discomfort. You may also have light bleeding where the biopsy was done. This is normal.

A hematoma, or a pocket of blood, can form at the site of the biopsy. This can be uncomfortable but should get better over the next few days. If you have extreme pain, you should call your provider right away.

How do I receive the results of my biopsy?

Your tissue sample is reviewed by a pathologist under a microscope and a report is written. The report will give your provider information about normal and not normal findings. Your provider will discuss your results with you.

Types of biopsies used to look for cancer. American Cancer Society. (2015, July 30). Retrieved August 23, 2022, from

Beard Cj, Ponnarasu S, Schmieder GJ. Excisional Biopsy. [Updated 2021 Sep 2]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:

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