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Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy

How It Feels

This procedure may be painful, but only for a few seconds. You may feel a sharp sting and burn when the anesthetic numbs your skin over the aspiration or biopsy site. You may hear a crunching sound and feel pressure and some pain when the needle enters the bone. During an aspiration, you may feel a quick, shooting pain down your leg as the sample is taken.

The biopsy site may feel stiff or sore for several days after the biopsy. You may have a bruise on the site.

Risks

Serious problems from a bone marrow aspiration or biopsy are not common. Problems may include:

  • Bleeding from the biopsy site. People with bleeding problems have a higher chance for this. If you have bleeding problems, pressure will be put on the biopsy site for at least 10 minutes after the biopsy. In rare cases, you may be given a blood product (clotting factor or platelets) in a vein in your arm before the biopsy to prevent bleeding after the biopsy.
  • Infection of skin or the bone (osteomyelitis) at the biopsy site.
  • Injury to your heart, a lung, or a major blood vessel if the sample is taken from the breastbone (sternum). This complication is very rare. Samples are not often taken from the breastbone, so most people do not have to worry about this risk.

After the biopsy

You will lie down for 30 to 60 minutes after the biopsy so the site can be checked for bleeding. If you had a sedative, you will need someone to drive you home after the biopsy.

You may feel sore at the biopsy site for several days. Ice packs to the site, walking, and pain medicine, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol), can be used to help you feel better.

Call your doctor immediately if you have:

  • More tenderness, pain, redness, or swelling at the biopsy site.
  • A fever.
  • Bleeding or drainage, such as pus, from the biopsy site. If you are bleeding, put pressure on the site and call your doctor.

Results

A bone marrow aspiration and biopsy removes a small amount of bone and a small amount of fluid and cells from inside the bone (bone marrow). It is often done to find the reason for many blood disorders and may be used to find out if cancer or infection has spread to the bone marrow.

Biopsy results are usually ready in 1 to 7 days. But it may take several weeks to get the results if genetic tests are done on the sample. The bone is put into a solution that breaks down its calcium before it is stained. The bone marrow sample is often treated with special dyes (stains) to see any changes in the blood cells more clearly.

Bone marrow biopsy and aspiration
Normal:

The marrow has normal amounts of fat, connective tissue, and iron. Normal numbers of both mature and immature (growing) bone marrow cells are present.

No signs of infection are seen.

No cancer cells, such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma, are seen.

No cancer cells have spread from other cancer sites, such as breast cancer.

Abnormal:

The cells in the bone marrow do not look normal.

There are too many or too few bone marrow cells. The bone tissue does not look normal.

Too much iron or too little iron (iron deficiency anemia) is seen in the bone marrow.

Signs of infection are seen in the bone marrow.

Cancer cells, such as leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma, are seen.

The bone marrow has been replaced by scar tissue.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: November 19, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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