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June 2000

Why a Skin Biopsy?

Arch Dermatol. 2000;136(6):779-780. doi:10.1001/archderm.136.6.779

DERMATOLOGISTS PERFORM skin biopsies to, among other reasons, determine whether to initiate or maintain therapy. In an attempt to address the value of a skin biopsy in the decision to initiate therapy, Zhou and colleagues,1 in this issue of the Archives of Dermatology, present a study analyzing the usefulness of skin biopsies in the management of acute graft-vs-host disease (GVHD) following allogeneic bone marrow transplantation. In their retrospective study of 88 patients, 51 patients underwent a skin biopsy to confirm or rule out the diagnosis of acute GVHD. The biopsy results were available for only 5 patients at the time of initiation of therapy for acute GVHD, and of these patients, there were only 2 for whom the decision to treat was based primarily on the biopsy results. The authors found no statistically significant association between whether a person received treatment and whether they had a positive or a negative biopsy finding for acute GVHD. It was the policy in the bone marrow transplantation unit that treatment last a minimum of 6 weeks and not depend on the results of subsequent diagnostic tests.