Bone Marrow Tests

What is a Bone Marrow Test?

A bone marrow test is a medical procedure used to evaluate the health of the cells within the bone marrow. Bone marrow is a spongy tissue found in the center of bones that produces red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. In certain medical conditions, the bone marrow can become unhealthy and make too many or too few of these cells. The bone marrow test is used to diagnose and monitor those conditions.

Preparation for a Bone Marrow Test

You may receive instructions from your doctor regarding medication or diet restrictions before your bone marrow test is scheduled. Tell your health care provider about any medications or supplements you are taking before the bone marrow test. You may receive instructions to stop taking aspirin, ibuprofen, and blood thinners for a few days prior. Check with your doctor as to how much time is necessary to stop taking these medications.

Procedure for Bone Marrow Test

During the procedure, a local anesthetic will be used to numb the bone marrow test area. A small needle is then inserted into the hip bone or other area. Using a syringe, several small samples of bone marrow and/or fluid from the bone marrow are collected and placed in a special solution for transport to a laboratory. The entire process takes about 30 to 45 minutes.

Types of Bone Marrow Tests

  • Bone marrow aspiration (BMA): In this procedure, a doctor inserts a needle into your hipbone, extracts a small amount of fluid and cells from your bone marrow.
  • Bone marrow biopsy (BMB): This procedure is similar to BMA, but a larger sample size is extracted. A doctor inserts a needle into your hipbone or other area and extracts cells from the solid bone marrow.

Risks of Bone Marrow Tests

In general, bone marrow tests are safe. However, they may cause discomfort or pain for some people. Other potential risks associated with the procedure include infection, bleeding, or nerve damage.

Why Do Doctors Order Bone Marrow Tests?

A bone marrow test can be an important tool to diagnose a variety of medical conditions, including anemia, certain cancers, and immune system disorders. The test can also help the doctor determine how well the bone marrow is functioning, or if there are any irregularities in the blood cell production.

When is a Bone Marrow Test Needed?

Your doctor may recommend a bone marrow test if you have symptoms such as: weakness, pallor, bruising, bleeding, or infection. It is also recommended for people with a family history of certain blood disorders or cancer. Additionally, bone marrow tests may be used to monitor the progress of treatment for certain medical conditions.