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Dermatologic procedures

Beth G Goldstein, MD
Adam O Goldstein, MD, MPH
Section Editor
Robert P Dellavalle, MD, PhD, MSPH
Deputy Editor
Rosamaria Corona, MD, DSc


Dermatologic procedures can be utilized to confirm a suspected diagnosis (eg, scabies preparation), to differentiate between two diagnoses (eg, potassium hydroxide [KOH] preparation to differentiate between fungal infection and dermatitis), and to give a definitive treatment for common dermatoses (eg, cryosurgery for actinic keratoses).

A number of dermatologic procedures will be described here. Dermoscopy, skin biopsy, and intralesional injection are discussed separately. (See "Overview of dermoscopy" and "Dermoscopic evaluation of skin lesions" and "Skin biopsy techniques" and "Intralesional injection".)


It is essential to have the proper equipment before starting any procedure. In addition, the benefits of good lighting cannot be overstated. Occasionally, the use of a magnifying hand lens (or a special magnifying lens system, such as dermoscopy) is helpful for delineating the types of lesions present and deciding where to perform a procedure.

Rushing a dermatologic procedure is helpful to neither the patient nor to the physician and may result in a poor outcome. If the patient is scheduled specifically for cutaneous surgery, suggested preoperative guidelines are useful:

Ask about allergies and past reactions to local anesthetics.

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Literature review current through: Oct 2017. | This topic last updated: Jan 27, 2016.
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