A lip biopsy is a surgical procedure that involves taking a sample of tissue from the lip for analysis in a laboratory. There are a number of reasons why a lip biopsy may be requested. The procedure does not take very long and there are minimal risks to the patient, especially when it is performed by an experienced doctor. Results are typically available in around a week, unless there are special circumstances. When a lip biopsy is recommended, patients may want to ask why the procedure is being requested and what the possible outcomes are.
One common reason to request a lip biopsy is to investigate a lesion on the lip. If a lip develops a lesion that will not heal despite being given time and supportive therapy, a biopsy can be used to learn more about what is causing it. If a cancer is suspected, a biopsy can be used to stage and determine the source of the cancer. Biopsies can also be ordered in suspected cases of Sjogren's syndrome, to evaluate the salivary glands found in the lower lip. They can also be useful for diagnosis of some other conditions, such as sarcoidosis.
In a lip biopsy, the patient will be seated and a local anesthetic is applied. The doctor will examine the lip to find the best site for a sample and will use surgical instruments to take some tissue and put it into a biopsy container so that it can be sent to the lab. The patient's lip will feel numb until the anesthetic wears off and the patient may experience some pain and soreness that can be managed with icing.
Patients are advised to avoid eating until the numbness resolves and they may want to eat bland foods that are easy to consume until the biopsy site heals. The oral mucosa heal very quickly, so the patient should recover in a week or less. The biggest risk is the potential for infection if the site is not kept clean. Usually normal oral hygiene is sufficient to prevent infection and allow the incision to heal.
Once the results come back, the doctor can discuss them with the patient. Negative results indicate that nothing abnormal was identified during an examination of the biopsied tissue. If the results are abnormal, the doctor can talk about the implications of the results and possible treatment options. These can include medications, another procedure to remove abnormal tissue, and topical preparations.