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. It usually takes about 30 minutes. Here's what to expect:

  • Your doctor gives you a shot to numb the area near your hipbone.
  • Your doctor makes a small cut in your skin.

Bone Marrow Aspiration (BMA)

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

Bone Marrow Biopsy (BMB)

  • Your doctor 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 doctor loosens the marrow sample to get it out. You may feel a little jerk.
  • Your doctor 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.