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Bone marrow is the soft, spongy part inside bones. It makes most of the body’s blood cells. Aspiration and biopsy are procedures done to take a sample of bone marrow out of the body for examination. To perform either procedure, a needle is inserted into one of your bones, usually the back of the hip bone. Then a sample of bone marrow is removed.
If a sample of fluid and cells is taken, it is called bone marrow aspiration. If a solid sample of bone marrow tissue is removed, it is called bone marrow biopsy. In either case, the samples are sent to a lab and studied. The procedures can be done alone, but are most often done together. This sheet tells you more about what to expect.
The procedures may be done for a number of reasons. They can help diagnose certain blood or bone marrow disorders or infections. They may help find certain cancers, such as leukemia. They can show if cancer in other areas of the body has spread to the bone marrow. They can be used during cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy, to monitor treatment progress. And they may be done before certain treatments, such as a stem cell transplant, which require a bone marrow sample. Your doctor will explain why you need the procedure and answer any questions you have.
Prepare for the procedure as told. In addition:
Tell your doctor:
What medications you take. This includes blood thinners, such as aspirin. This also includes over-the-counter drugs, herbs, and other supplements. You may need to stop taking some or all of them before the procedure.
If you are allergic to any medications. Also mention if you have ever had a reaction to medications used during other tests or procedures in the past.
If you have a history of bleeding problems.
If you are pregnant or may be pregnant.
Follow any directions you’re given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.
The procedures can be done at a hospital, clinic, or doctor’s office. They are performed by a doctor or trained healthcare provider. Whether you’re having one or both procedures, plan to be at the facility for 1-2 hours. You’ll likely go home the same day.
You’ll change into a patient gown.
An IV line may be put into a vein in your arm or hand. This line supplies fluids and medications.
You’ll be given a sedative to help you relax, if needed. This medication is given by pill, injection, or through the IV line.
You’ll lie on your side or your stomach.
The site to be used for the bone marrow samples is marked and cleaned. The most common site is the back of the hip bone. Less common sites include the front of the hip bone or breastbone.
Numbing medication (local anesthesia) is injected at the site.
A small cut is made through the numbed skin.
One or both procedures are then done. Be sure to lie still for each procedure. It is normal to feel some pressure or pain during each procedure.
For the bone marrow aspiration, a thin needle is put through the cut and into the bone. A syringe is then attached to the needle and used to remove a sample of bone marrow fluid and cells.
For the bone marrow biopsy, a different needle is put through the same cut and into the bone. A small amount of bone marrow tissue is then removed.
The samples are sent to a lab to be evaluated.
When the procedure is complete, pressure is applied to the site for 5-15 minutes to help stop bleeding. The site is then bandaged.
Most people can go home after a short period of observation. If you need it, you’ll be given medication to manage pain. If you were given a sedative, you may be taken to a recovery room to rest until the medication wears off. An adult family member or friend must drive you home afterward.
Once at home, follow any instructions you’re given. Be sure to:
Take all medications as directed.
Care for the procedure site as instructed.
Check for signs of infection at the procedure site (see below).
Do not bathe or shower until your bandage is removed. If you wish, you may wash with a sponge or washcloth.
Avoid heavy lifting and other strenuous activities as directed.
Fever of 100.4 ºF (38 ºC) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider
Signs of infection at the procedure site, such as increased redness or swelling, warmth, worsening pain, bleeding, or foul-smelling drainage
Your doctor will discuss the results with you when they are ready. This is usually within a week after the procedure.
Severe bleeding or bruising at the procedure site
Infection at the procedure site