A shave is a superficial technique carried out under a local anaesthetic. It is used to remove raised moles and seborrhoeic keratoses (non-cancerous skin growths). It leaves a small graze like wound that heals within a couple of weeks to leave a flat pale scar. Shave procedures can usually be carried out at the time of the initial consultation.
Curettage is a scraping technique that is used to remove areas of sun damage and some skin cancers. It is combined with hyfrecation, a form of electrical surgery that destroys tissue and prevents bleeding. This leaves a blackened area that will often scab before healing up in a similar way to a shave. Curettage can usually be carried out at the time of the initial consultation.
Cryotherapy refers to the destruction of tissue using a very cold substance. Liquid nitrogen, at minus 200 degrees centigrade, is typically used to destroy superficial skin lesions such as warts, sun damage and superficial skin cancers. A small ice ball is created in the skin that will often cause some swelling, redness and mild pain. The skin will usually heal within a week to leave a pale scar. Cryotherapy can usually be carried out at the time of the initial consultation.
The word biopsy is often associated with cancer, but in dermatology biopsy refers to a sampling technique of the skin and is often used to diagnose rashes as well as suspected skin cancer. A small round device like a mini apple corer is used under a local anaesthetic to remove a cylinder of skin for sampling. The hole is closed with a stitch, which is normally removed around 7-10 days later. A biopsy can usually be carried out at the time of the initial consultation.
Excision refers to skin being cut out with a scalpel, typically in an ellipse or ‘eye like’ shape. This is used to remove suspicious moles and skin cancers, with a margin of normal skin being removed around the lesion as well. The skin is then closed with internal (dissolvable) and external stitches.
Excisions are usually booked in as a day case procedure.