Bone marrow aspiration

What is Bone Marrow Aspiration?

Bone marrow aspiration is a medical procedure in which a doctor or medical professional removes a small sample of liquid bone marrow from a patient's bones for testing. The liquid marrow can be used to diagnose a variety of conditions, such as cancer, anemia, and infections.

Why is a Bone Marrow Aspiration Needed?

A bone marrow aspiration may be necessary to diagnose various medical conditions. These conditions include cancers, anemias, immune deficiencies, presence of infectious organisms, and other disorders. The test can detect changes in blood cell production, detect the presence of leukemia, diagnose an iron deficiency, and confirm the presence of certain bacteria.

Preparation for a Bone Marrow Aspiration

There is typically no preparation necessary for a bone marrow aspiration. However, it is important that the patient not eat, drink, or take any medications for at least 6 hours prior to the procedure. Also, a discussion of any existing medical conditions should take place between the doctor and patient before proceeding.

Procedures for a Bone Marrow Aspiration

A bone marrow aspiration is typically conducted in three steps:

  • First, the area of the hip bone or breastbone where the sample will be taken is prepared with a topical anesthetic. Then, a small needle is inserted through the skin and into the bone.
  • A syringe attached to the needle is used to withdraw a sample of bone marrow.
  • The sample is sent to a laboratory for analysis.

Types of Bone Marrow Aspirations

There are two different types of bone marrow aspirates: open (or “tru-cut”) and closed. An open or tru-cut bone marrow aspiration involves the removal of a larger sample of bone marrow from the hip bone or breastbone. During this procedure, a large needle is inserted into the bone and a rotating, circular blade is used to cut and remove a core of bone marrow tissue. A closed bone marrow aspiration involves the insertion of a thinner needle into the bone and then withdrawing a smaller sample of bone marrow fluid.

Risks Involved with a Bone Marrow Aspiration

The risks associated with a bone marrow aspiration are generally minor. They include mild discomfort or pain, bleeding, infection, and inflammation at the site of the aspiration. More serious complications, such as fractures, leaking of bone marrow into the surrounding tissue, or puncturing of a nearby organ are rare.

When is a Bone Marrow Aspiration Needed?

A bone marrow aspiration is typically ordered when a doctor suspects there is an underlying issue that could be revealed or confirmed through a laboratory test of the bone marrow. It may also be ordered to monitor and track the progress of certain treatments, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy. Bone marrow aspirations are typically not needed in healthy individuals.