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HealthInfo Aoraki-South Canterbury

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's anything wrong. This test will help to confirm your diagnosis and plan any treatment. It's done by a doctor who'll 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 breastbone. You'll be offered Entonox gas before the procedure to help you relax and provide pain relief.

Before the doctor takes the sample, they'll 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 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.

Cultural needs

For some people, it's important to have their bone marrow returned to them after it has been tested. For example, many Māori choose to have their bone marrow returned. This is so it can be blessed and buried in a significant place. If you would like this option, please speak with your doctor at the bone marrow biopsy procedure.

Sometimes your bone marrow can't be returned since the laboratory has to use all of it. But speak up if having your bone marrow returned is important to you.

If you have any special needs, it's important that you give at least five days’ notice. Examples of special needs include:

After your bone marrow biopsy

Possible complications

Written by the Canterbury Regional Cancer and Haematology Service. Adapted by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed May 2020. Last updated June 2020.


Page reference: 179746

Review key: HIBMB-29828