Examining Your Bone Marrow

Doctors need to look at a patient's bone marrow to confirm the diagnosis of any bone marrow failure disease. Having a bone marrow sample taken is a fairly simple procedure. It can be done in your doctor's office or in the hospital. The sample may be taken from the pelvic or breast bone. Occasionally, other areas are used. It usually takes about 30 minutes.

Tell your health care provider:

  • If you are allergic to any medications
  • If you are pregnant
  • If you have bleeding problems
  • What medications you are taking

You must sign a consent form for the procedure.

Here's what to expect:

  • If needed, you are given medicine to help you relax.
  • Your health care provider gives you a shot to numb the area.
  • Your health care provider makes a small cut in your skin.
  • Your health care provider cleans the skin and injects numbing medicine into the area and surface of the bone.

Bone Marrow Aspiration (BMA)

  • Your health care provider inserts a needle that goes into the marrow of your bone.  You may feel pressure as the needle is inserted into the bone. When the needle is all the way in, you may feel a deep, aching pain.
  • Your health care provider uses a syringe to draw out about a tablespoon of liquid called bone marrow aspirate. If the needle was inserted into your hipbone, you may feel stinging and pulling in your hip and down your leg.

Bone Marrow Biopsy (BMB)

  • Your health care provider puts the needle in again to take out a piece of solid marrow. You may feel some pressure while the needle is going in.
  • Your health care provider loosens the marrow sample to get it out. You may feel a little jerk.
  • YYour health care provider takes out about half an inch of bone marrow core.

Risks of Giving a Bone Marrow Sample

When you give a bone marrow sample, you face some small risks. There is a chance that the site of the sample may:

  • Bleed
  • Feel sore
  • Get infected
  • Have a bruise

If you feel sore, ask your doctor if you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol®). Your doctor will probably tell you to avoid aspirin and other NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), since they can increase the risk for bleeding.

Any time a needle is put into your skin, infection could occur. However, infection happens very rarely.