A bone marrow biopsy is the removal of a sample of bone marrow. The procedure is most often done on a pelvic or chest bone.
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Reasons for Procedure
A bone marrow biopsy may be done to:
- Count the number of red and white blood cells, and platelets
- Diagnose and stage different types of cancers
- Diagnose and watch leukemias
- Look for causes for iron level problems
- Look for causes of spleen enlargement—splenomegaly
- Test for other blood diseases that affect the bone marrow
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. Your doctor will review a list of possible problems such as:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Your doctor may do a physical exam and blood tests.
Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to 1 week in advance.
Local anesthesia will be used. It will numb the area. You may be given a light sedative. It will help you relax.
Description of Procedure
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. The site will be bandaged.
Immediately After Procedure
The bone marrow sample will be checked in a lab. 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 needle is rocked. After, you may feel sore for a few hours.
You should be able to resume your normal activities. If you have had a sedative, avoid driving until it wears off.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of the following occur:
- Fever or chills
- Redness, swelling, pain, bleeding, or pus from the biopsy site
- Nausea or vomiting
- Cough, breathing problems, or chest pain
- Joint pain, fatigue, stiffness, rash, or other problems
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
National Cancer Institute
Canadian Cancer Society
Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada
Bone marrow biopsy. Harvard Medical School website. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/diagnostic-tests/bone-marrow-biopsy.htm. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Bone marrow biopsy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/healthlibrary/test_procedures/orthopaedic/bone_marrow_biopsy_92,P07679. Accessed January 29, 2021.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Mohei Abouzied, MD, FACP Last Updated: 1/29/2021