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
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Reasons for Procedure
A bone marrow biopsy may be done to:
- Evaluate a low red blood cell count ( anemia), low white blood cell count (leucopenia), or low platelet count (thrombocytopenia)
- 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:
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.
Local anesthesia will be used. It will numb the area.
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.
How Long Will It Take?
About 30 minutes.
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.
You should be able to resume your normal activities after your biopsy. If you have had a sedative, avoid driving or operating equipment until the effects of the medication have worn off.
Follow all of your doctor’s instructions.
Call Your Doctor
After you are home, contact your doctor if any of the following occur:
- 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
In case of an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
National Cancer Institute http://www.cancer.gov
Cancer Centre of Southeastern Ontario http://www.krcc.on.ca
Accessed June 18, 2015.
Bone marrow biopsy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at:
Accessed June 18, 2015.
Last Updated: 5/28/2014