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HealthInfo Canterbury

Bone marrow biopsy

What is a bone marrow biopsy?

A bone marrow biopsy is when a small sample of bone marrow is taken and looked at under the microscope to see if there is anything wrong. This test will help to confirm your diagnosis and plan any treatment. It is done by a doctor who will explain the test to you. It will take 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It is a good idea to go to the toilet beforehand.

The doctor takes a small sample of bone marrow from the back of your hip bone or very rarely, from your breast bone. You will be offered entonox gas before the procedure, to help you relax and provide pain relief.

Before the doctor takes the sample, they will ask you to lie on your side. The skin over your hip bone will be cleaned and local anaesthetic will be injected to numb the area.

The doctor will then pass a small needle through your skin and into your bone. The doctor will then draw a sample of your bone marrow fluid up into the syringe. This is called bone marrow aspiration.

You may need a small piece of bone marrow removed. This is called a trephine biopsy. A special type of needle is used to do this. The doctor passes it through your skin, into your bone. The doctor then gently turns the needle back and forth and when they remove the needle a small piece of bone marrow comes out.

What happens after the biopsy?

What are the complications of a bone marrow biopsy?

You may get some bleeding from the biopsy site, but this is usually minor. There is a small risk that the biopsy site will become infected. If you are feeling unwell, have a fever or any other concerns related to the procedure please contact the Haematology Department.

How can you contact the Haematology Department?

Monday to Friday 8 am to 5 pm – Haematology Outpatients Department: phone (03) 364-0384.

After hours – Bone Marrow Transplant Unit: phone (03) 364-0660.

Written by the Canterbury Regional Cancer and Haematology Service. Endorsed by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Updated June 2015.

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