Testing Information

Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy

The Purpose

Your doctor has ordered a bone marrow aspiration and biopsy, which is taken from the soft tissue inside your bone. This test is used to evaluate bone marrow function and can be used to diagnose diseases of red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets.

An aspiration biopsy involves withdrawing a fluid sample containing bone marrow particles from the marrow. A needle biopsy involves removing a core of intact bone and bone marrow. The test takes around 30-40 minutes to perform.

The bone marrow sample will be examined under a microscope to determine whether the marrow produces enough normal blood cells and how mature they are. You’ll usually know the results in 1 or 2 days. Sometimes other studies are done as well, and may take a little longer for the results to come in.

Before the Test
  • You may continue your usual diet and fluid intake, but you may wish to eat lightly before the test.
  • Expect to have a blood sample taken.


During the Test

The most common biopsy site is the back of the hip, called the posterior superior iliac crest. Other sites include the lower part of the hipbone in front, or the breastbone.

If the doctor takes a marrow sample from the back of the pelvic bone, you’ll lie on your side or your stomach as still as you can. The doctor will drape the skin around the site and clean the skin with an antiseptic solution. Then a local anesthetic will be injected, which may cause brief discomfort before the area becomes numb.

For aspiration biopsy- Using a twisting motion, the doctor will insert the marrow aspiration needle through the skin, the tissue below, and the outer part of the bone into the marrow cavity. A small amount of bone marrow will be aspirated into the syringe. During this portion of the exam, you may experience brief discomfort as marrow is aspirated.

For needle biopsy- The doctor will insert the biopsy needle through the skin and underlying tissue and into the bone. The needle will be slowly advanced and rotated in both directions, capturing a tiny core of bone into the needle.

As the doctor collects the bone marrow sample, you’ll feel a dull pressure sensation and perhaps a pulling or tugging sensation. After the doctor withdraws the needle, pressure will be applied to the biopsy site for several minutes to stop any bleeding. Then the wound will be dressed with a sterile bandage.

After the Test
  • Do nothing strenuous for several hours.
  • Should there be excessive oozing or bleeding, apply local pressure to the site for 10 minutes at least twice.
  • Report any bleeding that completely soaks the bandages or bleeding that continues for more than 24 hours.
  • If you have discomfort, take medication as directed by your doctor.
  • Keep the wound dry for 24 hours. An occlusive bandage with antibiotic ointment may be used for 3-4 days to facilitate wound healing.
  • Continue to inspect the biopsy site daily until it heals. Notify your doctor without delay if you notice swelling, fever or redness at the site or if you feel severe pain.