Bone marrow biopsy

Definition

A bone marrow biopsy is the removal of marrow from inside bone. Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. It is found in the hollow part of most bones.

How the Test is Performed

A bone marrow biopsy may be done in the health care provider's office or in a hospital. The sample may be taken from the pelvic or breast bone. Sometimes, other areas are used.

Marrow is removed in the following steps:

A bone marrow aspiration may also be done, usually before the biopsy is taken. After the skin is numbed, the needle is inserted into the bone, and a syringe is used to withdraw the liquid bone marrow. If this is done, the needle will be removed and repositioned. Or, another needle may be used for the biopsy.

How to Prepare for the Test

Tell the health care provider:

You must sign a consent form.

How the Test will Feel

You will feel a sharp sting when the numbing medicine is injected.The biopsy needle may also cause a brief, usually dull, pain. Since the inside of the bone cannot be numbed, this test may cause some discomfort.

If a bone marrow aspiration is also done, you may feel a brief, sharp pain as the bone marrow liquid is removed.

Why the Test is Performed

Your doctor may order this test if you have abnormal types or numbers of red or white blood cells or platelets on a complete blood count (CBC).

This test is used to diagnose leukemia, infections, some types of anemia, and other blood disorders. It may also be used to help determine if a cancer has spread or responded to treatment.

Normal Results

A normal result means the bone marrow contains the proper number and types of blood-forming (hematopoietic) cells, fat cells, and connective tissues.

What Abnormal Results Mean

Abnormal results may be due to cancers of the bone marrow (leukemia, lymphoma, multiple myeloma, or other cancers).

The results may detect the cause of anemia (too few red blood cells), abnormal white blood cells, or thrombocytopenia (too few platelets).

Additional conditions for which the test may be performed:

Risks

There may be some bleeding at the puncture site. More serious risks, such as serious bleeding or infection, are very rare.


Review Date: 5/29/2014
Reviewed By: Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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