QUESTION: I have been told that I need a bone marrow biopsy. I am worried about this test. Can you tell me what I need to prepare for?
ANSWER: A bone marrow biopsy is a test that examines the bone marrow. It is commonly recommended to diagnose and monitor a variety of conditions. A bone marrow biopsy can also be used to diagnose or determine the extent of some types of cancer. A bone marrow biopsy is done through a procedure called a bone marrow aspiration. This is the technique used to obtain a sample of the marrow, the blood forming portion of the inner core of the bone.
A bone marrow aspiration is usually taken from the pelvic bone (ilium). This is accessible from the lower back, near the hip. Bone marrow can also be taken from the front of the pelvic bone (near the groin) or the sternum (the center bone in the chest).
A bone marrow aspiration can typically be done in the outpatient or inpatient setting. Your provider may offer pre-procedure medications to help relax you and local anesthetic will also be used to numb the skin and tissue down to the bone. A special needle is used to puncture through the skin to the bone. A device is used to advance the special needle into the bone. Once inside the bone, the center portion of the needle is removed and a syringe is attached to the end of the needle and the marrow (which is liquid) is withdrawn. For a bone marrow biopsy, a core of tissue is trapped inside the center needle before it is removed. The samples are prepared and sent to the laboratory for analysis.
After the bone marrow biopsy procedure is complete, a pressure bandage is applied to the site. There are no special precautions that need to be taken after a bone marrow aspiration, but the site should be monitored for bleeding and/or signs and symptoms of infection: redness, warmth, or abnormal drainage. You should notify your provider if you have any bleeding or signs of infection. The site may feel sore (like a bad bruise) for several days. This discomfort can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications recommended by your doctor.
Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition and treatments. The information contained in this website is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.