How and Why Excisions Are Performed During a Surgery

Surgeon Beginning Procedure With Scalpel In Hand, Close-up
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Excision means "to surgically remove." This term is used in reference to removing a mass using a scalpel, laser, or another instrument. During an excision, the entire mass is completely removed, not just a part as is done in a biopsy.

While the term excise is often used to describe a large range of procedures that remove tissue during surgery, the precise use of the term means removing an entire structure using some type of cutting instrument. A lumpectomy is an example of an excisional biopsy that removes the entire growth versus a biopsy that takes just a sample of the lump to study.

While the term excise is often used to describe procedures that are used to treat cancer, the term is not exclusive to the treatment of cancer. Tissue may need to be removed for a variety of reasons, and while cancer is certainly one of those reasons there are many other medical problems that can lead to the need for an excision.

Who Performs Excisions?

The individual performing an excision would depend on upon the nature of the tissue and the location.  An excision in the brain would be performed by a brain surgeon, an appendectomy would be performed by a general surgeon, and a skin biopsy might be performed by a plastic surgeon, dermatologist, family practice or internal medicine provider.

Frequently Asked Questions

What's the difference between an excision and a resection?

A resection means surgically removing an entire organ, a whole section of an organ (like an entire lung lobe), or a body part. An excision removes a portion of a body part or organ or a complete section of tissue. For example, a mastectomy is the resection of an entire breast, while a lumpectomy is the excision of a tumor from a breast.

How is excision surgery used to treat skin cancer?

Often, excision is the only treatment needed for basal cell or squamous cell skin cancers, as well as early-stage melanomas. In addition to the tumor, some healthy-looking tissue is removed and tested to ensure all the cancer is excised.

Can you have a tattoo cut out?

Yes, you can have a surgical excision to remove a tattoo. The skin with ink is cut out from the surrounding skin, and the wound is closed with sutures. The procedure requires local or, possibly, general anesthesia and usually leaves a surgical scar.

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