Bone Marrow Biopsy
A bone marrow biopsy is the removal of a sample of bone marrow for testing. The procedure is most often done on the pelvic bone. It may also be done on the sternum.
Bone Marrow Biopsy
Reasons for Procedure
A bone marrow biopsy may be done to:
- Evaluate the counts of red and white blood cells, and platelets
- Diagnose and stage lymphoma or solid tumors
- Diagnose, monitor, and evaluate leukemias
- Evaluate iron level problems
- Evaluate for causes of unexplained spleen enlargement—splenomegaly
- Evaluate other blood disorders or diseases that may affect the bone marrow
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have this procedure, your doctor will review a list of possible complications which may include:
Some risk factors for complications during this procedure include:
- Bleeding disorders
- Infection of the skin at the biopsy site
- Infection in the bloodstream
- Prior radiation treatment to the biopsy site
- Severe osteoporosis
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do a physical exam and blood tests.
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
Description of Procedure
You may be given a light sedative. It will help you relax. The biopsy area will be cleaned and numbed.
A hollow biopsy needle will be inserted into the bone. The needle will be twisted and moved forward. This motion will allow a sample of bone marrow to enter the core of the needle. A fair amount of pressure may be used. The needle may need to be rocked. The needle will then be removed. The bone marrow sample will be inside the needle. Pressure will be applied to the puncture area. A bandage will be applied.
Immediately After Procedure
The bone marrow specimen will be examined by a pathologist. Ask your doctor when you can expect the results.
Will It Hurt?
The injection of anesthesia may sting or burn. You may notice a feeling of pressure and pain when the biopsy needle is rocked. After the biopsy is done, you may feel soreness in the area for a few hours.
Call Your Doctor
Contact your doctor if your recovery is not progressing as expected or you develop complications, such as:
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any discharge from the biopsy site
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
- Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other new symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
National Cancer Institute
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
BC Cancer Agency
Cancer Centre South East
Bone marrow biopsy. Harvard Medical School website. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/diagnostic-tests/bone-marrow-biopsy.htm. Accessed June 18, 2015.
Bone marrow biopsy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/bone_marrow_biopsy_92,P07679. Accessed June 18, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2016 by Mohei Abouzied, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.