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Australas J Dermatol. 2005 May;46(2):70-5.

Dysplastic naevi: to shave, or not to shave? A retrospective study of the use of the shave biopsy technique in the initial management of dysplastic naevi.

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Department of Dermatology, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.


The management of dysplastic naevi is a controversial subject. This study sought to assess the usefulness of the shave biopsy technique in the initial management of dysplastic naevi, and to demonstrate the advantages over the punch biopsy technique. We report a retrospective observational study of histopathology specimens examined in one histopathology practice over a 14-month period. Patients who had a clinical diagnosis of 'dysplastic naevus', which had initially been biopsied using either a shave or punch biopsy, and then followed up with a full-thickness elliptical excision, were included in the study. Histopathological concordance between the shave and punch biopsy specimens and their respective follow-up elliptical excisions was compared. We found that 21 of 22 (95.5%) shave biopsies were concordant with their respective excision specimens, and that 29 of 41 (70.7%) punch biopsies were concordant with their respective elliptical excision specimens. Of the shave biopsy specimens reviewed, 66% showed that the dysplastic naevi were completely excised with the initial biopsy, compared with 21.2% of the punch biopsy specimens. These findings confirm that shave biopsies provide accurate diagnostic information in the assessment of dysplastic naevi. Shave biopsies enable the entire lesion to be submitted for histopathological assessment, improving the chances of an accurate diagnosis.

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