Removing bone marrow

Author:  PD Dr. med. Gesche Tallen, Editor:  Maria Yiallouros, Reviewer:  Prof. Dr. med. Dr. h. c. Günter. Henze, English Translation:  Hannah McRae, Last modification: 2015/04/28

In order to diagnose or rule out any kind of bone marrow disease, in particular leukaemias and lymphomas, bone marrow samples are required. Bone marrow samples and subsequent tests are also needed for the staging of certain cancers, and during the course of the treatment.

Bone marrow can be removed either by aspiration or biopsy as follows:

Bone marrow aspiration

Bone marrow aspiration is performed by taking a small sample of the marrow in the patient's hip bone. At this location, the marrow is easily accessible. By using a thin syringe, a few milliliters of bone marrow are aspirated for further analysis under the microscope.

Older children and teenagers usually receive a local anesthetic, while younger children may be administered a brief anesthesia for the procedure to prevent pain.

Bone marrow aspiration usually does not take longer than fifteen minutes and can be performed in in- and outpatients. After the procedure, the puncture site is covered with a pressure bandage for some time to prevent bleeding. Shortly after, the patient can get up again.

Bone marrow biopsy

When a bone marrow aspiration does not provide enough samples for comprehensive analysis, a bone marrow biopsy is required.

A bone marrow biopsy is performed by using a larger syringe to remove larger samples from the marrow in the hip bone. The patients usually receive general anesthesia for the procedure.