Having a skin lesion removed
Your specialist has recommended that you have a skin lesion removed. This factsheet provides some standard information and advice about the procedure. However, you should always follow the instructions of your own specialist.
If you have any unanswered questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to ask your specialist or nurse for more information. It is natural to feel anxious, but knowing what to expect can often help.
What's the operation for?
This is an operation to remove a skin lesion - such as a mole or cyst – that has shown changes in shape or colour, or is unsightly, painful or restricting your movement. Removing a skin lesion is usually a quick and straightforward procedure and is most often performed as a day case, without the need for an overnight stay.
The operation is usually performed using a local anaesthetic. Less commonly, a general anaesthetic is given. The choice of anaesthetic will depend upon the size and location of the lesion and your specialist will advise which is the most suitable for you.
Preparing for your operation
Your specialist or hospital will give you some information about when and how to check into hospital.
You may be asked some questions – about your health, experience of surgery, allergies and the medicines you are taking – when you come for treatment.
On the day of your admission, you should have a bath or shower at home and remove any make-up or nail varnish. The hospital can usually cover any rings you'd rather not remove with adhesive tape.
If you are having a local anaesthetic, there is no need to go without food and drink. When you arrive at the hospital, your nurse will explain how you will be cared for and may perform some simple tests such as checking your pulse and blood pressure, and testing your urine. Your specialist and anaesthetist will also visit you. This is a good time to ask any outstanding questions about your treatment.
Before going to theatre, you will be given a consent form to sign. By doing this, you confirm that you understand what the procedure involves, including the benefits and risks, and give your permission for it to go ahead.
Please refer to further information below regarding the risks of this procedure. You need to know about these in order to give your informed consent.
About the operation
A local anaesthetic for removing a skin lesion usually involves one or two injections to the skin around the lesion. After a few minutes, this numbs the area completely so that the lesion can be excised (cut away) without causing pain or discomfort. The effect of a local anaesthetic lasts approximately two hours.
Depending on the location of the lesion you are having removed, you may be asked to change out of some or all of your clothes and put on a surgical gown. If you are having a local anaesthetic, you will probably walk to the operating theatre.
The technique for removing the lesion depends on factors such as its size and location. Typically, the lesion is shaved down with a surgical blade, or is cut away. The resulting wound site may require stitches (sutures). Lasers and liquid gas (extreme cold) may also be used to treat certain skin conditions.
After your operation
After a local anaesthetic, you will return to your room or the day care ward on foot or in a wheelchair. A nurse will assess the operation site and may check on your blood pressure and pulse. Before you are discharged, the nurse will advise you about caring for your surgical wound. Some wounds do not require dressings, so please do not be surprised if you go home without one.
You will be offered light refreshments and, after getting dressed, you will be able to go home. As the skin around the operation site will be numb, take special care not to bump or knock the area. It is sensible to have someone to drive you home.
Your nurse will give you a contact telephone number for the hospital, in case you need to ask for any further advice.
If you have stitches, the day care nurse will give you advice about having them removed 5 to 10 days later. You may be asked to come back for an outpatient clinic for this.
Alternatively, you may be advised to contact your GP or district nurse to arrange for them to remove the stitches. Dissolvable stitches will disappear on their own, in around 7 to 10 days.
If your wound has a dressing, leave this in place for 48 hours. If a replacement dressing is required, one will be provided for you to change at home.
After you return home
As the local anaesthetic wears off, your operation site may feel sore. Take simple painkillers, such as aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol, as directed on the packet.
Most surgical wounds do not require any special bathing and simply need to be kept clean and dry. However, when a lesion has been removed from the face, make-up should be avoided in the wound area until the stitches have been removed.
After removal of a skin lesion, the wound generally heals fairly quickly. However, if you are concerned, do not hesitate to contact your doctor.
Please advise us if your wound:
- Becomes more painful
- Looks red, inflamed or swollen
- Smells unpleasant
- Leaks any sort of liquid
What are the risks?Having a skin lesion removed is generally a very safe surgical procedure. However, all surgery does carry some element of risk. This can be divided into the risk of side-effects and the risk of complications.
These are the unwanted but usually temporary effects of a successful treatment. Examples of side-effects include the numbness caused by the local anaesthetic. There is also likely to be some pain, swelling and/or bruising around the operation site.
This is when problems occur during or after the procedure. Most people are not affected. The main possible complications of any surgery are excessive bleeding during or soon after the operation, infection, and an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic.
Complications of minor surgery to the skin are uncommon, but the chance of problems does depend on the nature of the lesion, the exact type of operation required and other factors such as your general health. You should ask your surgeon to explain how these risks apply to you.
This leaflet is for information only. For a detailed opinion or personal advice, please consult with your own doctor
This information was published by Bupa's health information team and is based on reputable sources of medical evidence. It has been peer reviewed by Bupa doctors. The content is intended for general information only and does not replace the need for personal advice from a qualified health professional.