Youth Cancer

Bone Marrow Biopsy and Aspiration

A bone marrow biopsy is an extremely important test which can accurately diagnose some types of cancer, and help track the progress of your treatment.
  • The bone marrow is a type of soft tissue inside some of your larger bones, which produces red and white blood cells and platelets.
  • By examining a small amount of your bone marrow, usually taken from your hip bone, your doctors can make important decisions about your care.

How does it all work?

  • First of all, you’ll probably receive some medication to sedate you. Drugs commonly used include Fentanyl and Propofol. These will be administered by an anaesthetist.
  • Then, you’ll have to lay face-down on an examining table. A small blanket or towel may be placed under your hips to raise them. If you receive sedation medicine, you’ll soon be off to sleep and you won’t feel any of the procedure.
Some people really like the feeling they get from Propofol, as it makes all things very dreamy and relaxing…zzzz! If you want, you can bring an ipod with you to help you stay calm.
  • After you’re asleep, the biopsy area is disinfected and a local anaesthetic is injected to numb the skin. If you’re not sedated, you will feel the prick of the needle and the local anaesthetic will sting at first.

A biopsy needle is then inserted through your hip bone into your bone marrow and a small amount of bone marrow is pulled up into a syringe for testing. Again, if you’re not asleep, you may feel some pressure and pain as the needle is pushed into your bone.
  • Once the bone marrow is extracted, a new needle will be placed in the same hole to get a small specimen of bone for further testing. The needle is pressed forward and rotated in both directions. This forces a tiny sample of bone into the needle.
If a good sample is not taken, the doctor or nurse doing the procedure may need to try again. The needle is then removed and a pressure bandage (to stop bleeding) is applied.

A laboratory technician will examine the bone marrow and prepare a report for your doctor. This usually takes a few days.

Your back may be sore for a few days. Paracetamol (Panadol) may help relieve the soreness. If you have lots of bone marrow biopsies throughout your treatment, your doctor or nurse will try to alternate sides to reduce scar tissue build up. After a while, you might begin to feel like a pin cushion…but unfortunately it's necessary.