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bone marrow biopsy

Alternative Names
bone marrow aspiration

A bone marrow biopsy removes a sample of bone marrow cells from the bone.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?
A person may undergo a bone marrow biopsy in order to:
  • diagnose different types of leukaemia when a blood test shows suspicious cell changes.
  • follow the response to a leukaemia treatment.
  • help in diagnosis and treatment of certain other cancers or other non-cancerous, blood disorders.
How is the procedure performed?
First, the skin over the rear of the pelvic bone is cleansed and local anaesthesia is used to numb the area. Sometimes a drug is given intravenously to help calm the person having the procedure. A hollow stainless steel needle is inserted into the back part of the pelvic bone. Once it is inside the bone, a sample of the white to reddish liquid marrow is drawn into the syringe.

Sometimes a larger hollow needle is used to obtain a solid core specimen of marrow from the same area. No incision or stitches are needed. The sample taken is checked under a microscope for abnormal cells.

What happens right after the procedure?
  • The wound in the bone closes by itself. Usually there is very little scarring.
  • A bandage is left on for 24 hours, then removed. After that, no special care is needed.
  • The person may experience some pain in the area for several days. Mild pain relievers should be enough to treat this.
What are the potential complications after the procedure?
Occasionally, a person experiences:
  • noticeable pain.
  • infection.
  • slow bleeding at the site.
A reaction to the anaesthesia used is possible, too.

Reviewer: HealthAnswers Australia Medical Review Panel
Editor: Dr David Taylor, Chief Medical Officer HealthAnswers Australia
Last Updated: 1/10/2001
Potential conflict of interest information for reviewers available on request

This website and article is not a substitute for independent professional advice. Nothing contained in this website is intended to be used as medical advice and it is not intended to be used to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease, nor should it be used for therapeutic purposes or as a substitute for your own health professional's advice.  All Health and any associated parties do not accept any liability for any injury, loss or damage incurred by use of or reliance on the information.


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