What is a Bone Marrow Biopsy?

What is a Bone Marrow Biopsy?

Bones are made up of several critical components. In a bone marrow biopsy, a doctor uses a needle to remove and examine a small amount of bone marrow, the spongy tissue that can be found inside the larger bones in the body. By examining the bone marrow, physicians can diagnose diseases of the blood and bone marrow including leukemias and lymphomas.

The Function of Bone Marrow

Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the center of large bones that makes most of the body’s blood cells. These blood cells perform a number of functions in the body:

  • White blood cells allow your body to fight both bacterial and viral infections
  • Red blood cells carry oxygen to cells throughout your body
  • Platelets clump together to help your blood clot in the case of a cut or scrape

Reasons for a Bone Marrow Biopsy

There are several reasons why your physician might order a bone marrow biopsy including, but not limited to:

  • Understand abnormal level of blood cells — Blood tests can tell doctors if something is off in your body, but it can’t explain why. Through a bone marrow biopsy, physicians get a more complete look at the health of the bone marrow developing your blood cells.
  • Identify if cancer cells have spread — By examining the bone marrow directly, doctors can evaluate if cancer has spread from another area of the body.
  • Diagnose or evaluate bone marrow cancers — Through a bone marrow biopsy, physicians can diagnose subtypes of cancers including leukemias, lymphomas and multiple myelomas when there are not enough cancer calls circulating in the blood to diagnose.

The Test

Before the bone marrow biopsy, patients may be given an injection of local anesthetic to numb the area. Physicians typically select the pelvic bone near the hip for biopsies. The physician will use a small needle and insert it directly into the bone to access the bone marrow in the center. The bone marrow tissue that is removed is then sent to a clinical lab and checked under a microscope by a pathologist for any abnormalities. These abnormalities can help doctors diagnose diseases and determine a course of treatment for the patient.

We understand bone marrow biopsies can be anxiety-inducing tests. We work with our patients every step of the way, keeping them informed and comfortable with the procedure and up to date on lab results.