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Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy

This information will explain your bone marrow aspiration and biopsy at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).

Bone marrow is a thick liquid substance inside your bones. Your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant will use a long, narrow needle to remove some of your bone marrow. The marrow is then examined to see how your blood cells function and whether they are abnormal. The procedure usually takes 15 to 20 minutes.

Preparing for Your Procedure

You do not need to do anything to get ready for your procedure. You may eat beforehand.

Tell your doctor or nurse if you are:

  • Allergic to iodine or local anesthetics (medications used to make an area numb)
  • Sensitive or allergic to latex
  • Sensitive or allergic to any adhesives such as tape

During Your Procedure

  1. The area usually used is the back of the hip bone. You will lie on your stomach or sometimes on your side for this. The breastbone or the front of the hip bone is very rarely used. In this case you will lie on your back.
  2. Your skin will be cleaned with Betadine® solution. (Betadine® has iodine in it. If you are allergic to Betadine®, alcohol will be used.)
  3. The site will be numbed using Novocaine® or Lidocaine®. You may feel some burning during the injection of the anesthetic. This will go away in a few seconds.
  4. Once the anesthetic starts working, a needle will be inserted into your bone. You will feel pressure as the needle is inserted. A small amount of bone marrow will then be removed through the needle. This is the “aspirate” or “aspiration.” You may feel a quick pulling sensation moving down your leg at this time. Some people feel very brief pain when the aspirate is taken. The anesthetic cannot help with this pain.
  5. If you also need a biopsy, a separate needle will be used. It will be inserted into the same area where the aspiration was taken. A small core will be taken from the inside of your bone marrow. You may feel some pressure. Most patients do not feel the pulling sensation or pain they feel with the aspirate.
  6. When finished, a small dressing will be applied to the area.

After Your Procedure

  • You may feel some soreness at the area where the bone marrow was taken. Check with your doctor or nurse about medication to relieve the discomfort. Do not take aspirin or products that contain it unless your doctor prescribes them. Ask your nurse for the resource called Common Medications Containing Aspirin and Other Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). It lists the medications you should not take because they can cause bleeding.
  • Some patients feel slightly light-headed for a few minutes. This will go away without problem.
  • Remove the dressing after 24 hours.
  • You may take a bath or shower 24 hours after your procedure.
  • If you have bleeding from the bone marrow site, apply pressure and tell your doctor or nurse.