Bone Marrow Aspiration

What is a bone marrow aspiration?

A bone marrow aspiration is a procedure that uses a needle to remove a sample of the liquid part of bone marrow, the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. This test can find out how well your bone marrow is working, and it is sometimes done to find some types of cancer.

Why might I need a bone marrow aspiration?

You may have a bone marrow aspiration to check the health of your bone marrow for a possible transplant. An aspiration may also be done to diagnose blood infections or conditions like anemia, leukemia or multiple myeloma.

In some cases, bone marrow aspiration is used to confirm chromosome disorders in newborns.

How is a bone marrow aspiration done?

The sample can be taken from a number of different sites on your body, but the hip bone is a common spot. You will likely lie on your side or stomach on an exam table. Your doctor will use local anesthesia to numb the area of the test.

A needle will be inserted into your skin and then into the bone. A syringe on the back of the needle draws out the fluid part of the marrow. A bandage will be applied after the needle is removed, and the fluid is sent to a lab for examination.

What other tests might I have along with this one?

Your provider may also order a complete blood count (CBC), a reticulocyte count (to determine your red blood cell survival rate), or a biopsy.

What are the risks of a bone marrow aspiration?

Risks from a bone marrow test are rare. You may feel slight pain during the procedure, but not afterward. It is possible, but not likely, to develop bleeding or an infection with the procedure.

How do I get ready for a bone marrow aspiration?

Tell your doctor if you take aspirin or any blood-thinning medications. Also tell your provider if you have any allergies, could be pregnant or have a history of bleeding problems. You should also mention all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines or supplements you are taking.

What do my test results mean?

The lab will look at different aspects of your bone marrow, including:

  • Type and number of blood cells
  • Abnormalities in the size or shape of cells
  • Level of iron in the bone marrow
  • Chromosomal abnormalities

Depending on what is seen, abnormal results may mean that you have an infection, a blood disease, leukemia or cancer that has spread to the bone marrow from another site. Your doctor will discuss the results with you and consider other information from your exam and health history to make a diagnosis.