The following information is about having a minor skin lesion removed. Please note that each and every operation is tailored to the individual needs of the patient, so no two operations are exactly the same. It is therefore important to discuss your aspirations and concerns with your surgeon.

What is removal of a minor skin lesion?

A skin lesion may include a cyst, skin tag, viral wart (papilloma), mole or blemish. You may request an operation if you do not like how it looks, or your doctor may recommend it to be removed if the lesion has become infected, if the appearance has changed in shape or colour, or if it has become more painful or is restricting movements in any way. Removal is usually a quick, straightforward exercise and can almost without exception be performed under a local anaesthetic (please see separate information sheet ‘having a local anaesthetic’) and as a day case. On rare occasions where multiple lesions need to be removed at the same sitting, a general anaesthetic may be required. Please consult with your surgeon for further advice.

Risks and benefits

Removal of a minor skin lesion is a safe operation. As with any surgical procedure there are certain side effects and risks that can occasionally occur. These will be discussed in detail with your surgeon, initially in general terms at the time of the first outpatient consultation in order to allow you to make a fully informed decision about whether to proceed with surgery. There will also be other opportunities to discuss the pros and cons, either during a subsequent consultation, or just before the operation.

Benefits

  • 1.Improved cosmetic appearance and absence of aggravating symptoms

Risks

  • 1.Bleeding from the wound
  • 2.Infection
  • 3.Haematoma (blood clot) beneath the skin – this will require drainage
  • 4.Unsightly scar
  • 5.Reaction to the anaesthetic

Preparing for the operation

Please see information sheet ‘Preparing for your operation’

About the operation

Please see ‘Having a local anaesthetic’ and/or ‘having a general anaesthetic’ information sheets.

As this is a minor operation, you should continue to take your normal medications/tablets as usual, right up to the operation, unless you are told otherwise by your surgeon and/or anaesthetist.

The exact operation performed will depend on the size and location of the lesion. The majority are cut out using a scalpel and the wound closed or sutured with stitches or skin glue. Any bleeding at the time of surgery is stopped using diathermy, a form of heat which seals off blood vessels. Some lesions arising from the very surface of the skin can either be snipped off with scissors without any anaesthetic, or may be amenable to being frozen off with liquid nitrogen gas. On occasions a high energy laser beam will be required.

After the operation

You will be taken from the operating theatre to your room on the day surgery ward where you will be under close supervision. If you have had sedation you will need to rest. A nurse will maintain close supervision and may check your temperature, heart rate and blood pressure. Painkillers will be given as required although the operation should not generally cause much discomfort. You can eat and drink when you feel comfortable to do so, and you should be able to go home in most cases within the hour, unless sedation or a general anaesthetic has been given in which case a longer period of monitoring will be necessary. However in most cases it still should be possible to go home the same day.

You will be given instructions from the nurse regarding caring for your wound. Some wounds do not require a dressing. If a dressing has been applied, it can initially feel quite tight although this sensation should subside relatively quickly. Please telephone the hospital or consult your surgeon if you are concerned.

Going home

If your operation was planned as a day case and you have had a general anaesthetic, you will need to make arrangements for someone to drive you home.

Recovery at home

It is advisable not to drive, drink alcohol, sign legal documents or operate heavy machinery for 48 hours after a general anaesthetic as this can affect concentration, co-ordination, awareness and motor skills.

Local anaesthetics make the area where they have been injected numb, and this can last for several hours. Be careful not to knock or bump it when you return home. Also it is advisable to have available some simple painkillers such as paracetamol which you may need to use when the local anaesthetic wears off, although this is only occasionally necessary.

After excision of a skin lesion, a dressing may or may not have been applied. In either case, keep the wound dry and away from water contact, and avoid any direct pressure or stretching of the area. If a dressing falls off within 48 hours of the operation, please replace it with another one which should have been given to you on discharge from hospital. If not, please contact the hospital for advice as to how to obtain a replacement. Protect any exposed sites from direct sunlight until it has completely healed.

If stitches have been used to close the wound, they may need to be removed after a few days. Arrangements should already have been made for this to be done either by the hospital, practice nurse at your local GP surgery or by your surgeon. Once any stitches are out, a simple moisturiser can be applied to soften the wound further, perhaps aided by periodic massaging to maximise the blood flow to the area and improve healing.

Outcome

Your surgeon will arrange to see you approximately two weeks after the operation. At this stage the wound may look a little swollen, red and bruised but nevertheless you should still be able to notice the improvements in the appearance of the scar even at this early stage.