What Is Bone Marrow
Bone marrow aspiration is a procedure that involves taking
a sample from the soft tissue inside your bones. Bone marrow is the spongy
tissue found inside bones. It contains cells that produce white blood cells,
red blood cells, and platelets inside larger bones such as the:
White blood cells help fight
infection. Red blood cells carry oxygen and nutrients. Platelets enable
your blood to clot.
If a complete
blood count shows that the number or function of red blood cells, white blood
cells, or platelets is abnormally high or low, your doctor may want to examine
your bone marrow to help figure out the cause. Bone marrow aspiration is often
performed with a bone marrow biopsy, which uses a different type of needle
to remove tissue from your bone marrow.
Why Bone Marrow Aspiration
Numerous conditions are associated with unhealthy bone marrow.
If preliminary blood tests show low levels of white or red blood cells or
platelets, your doctor may order a bone marrow aspiration. The test is used to
check for disease as well as to monitor the progression or treatment of a
Conditions and diseases related to bone marrow problems include:
- anemia, which is a low red blood cell count
- bone marrow diseases, such as myelofibrosis or
- blood cell conditions, such as leukopenia or
- cancers of the bone marrow or blood, such as
leukemia or lymphoma
- hemochromatosis, which is a genetic disorder in which
iron builds in the blood
- infection, especially chronic diseases like
- storage diseases, such as amyloidosis or
Bone marrow aspiration can also be an important test if you're having
cancer treatment. It can help determine if the cancer has spread to the bones.
What Are the Risks Associated
with a Bone Marrow Aspiration?
Bone marrow exams are safe, but all medical procedures carry
some type of risk. In rare instances, the following complications are possible:
- an allergic reaction to anesthesia
- excessive bleeding
- an infection
- long-lasting discomfort
The risks are rare and most often associated with conditions
that cause a weakened immune system or low platelet count. A weakened immune
system can make you more prone to infection, and a low platelet count increases
your risk of excessive bleeding.
How to Prepare for Bone
You should let your doctor know about any medications you may be
taking, including over-the-counter (OTC) medicines or nutritional supplements. You
should also let them know about any allergies you have. Your doctor may ask you
to stop taking certain medications before the procedure. But you shouldn’t stop
taking any medications unless your doctor instructs you to do so.
Tell your doctor if you’re nervous about the procedure. They may
give you a mild sedative to help you through the procedure.
Follow any additional instructions from your doctor before the
How Bone Marrow Aspiration
You’ll be asked to change into a hospital gown and lie down on
your side or abdomen. Your body will be covered with a cloth so that only the
area being examined is visible.
Your doctor will check your heart rate and blood pressure before
the bone marrow aspiration.
Just before the procedure, you’ll be given local anesthesia to
numb the area where the aspiration will take place. This is typically at the
top ridge of the rear of the hipbone. Occasionally, it may be taken from the
Your doctor will make a small incision that makes it easier for
a hollow needle to go into your skin. The needle then goes into the bone. Your
doctor uses a syringe on the back of needle to draw out the fluid portion of
Immediately after the procedure, the incision will be bandaged
and you’ll go into another room to rest before going home.
After Bone Marrow
You may feel some slight pain for about a week after the
procedure. You can typically manage it with OTC pain relievers. You’ll also
have to take care of the incision wound. You should keep the wound dry for 24
hours after the procedure.
While you’re caring for your wound, your bone marrow sample will
go to a laboratory for testing. Your doctor will review test results with you
during a follow-up appointment.