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What is a Bone Marrow Biopsy?

A bone marrow biopsy and aspiration is a procedure that is done to diagnose blood disorders, certain cancers or even infections.

Bone marrow is the soft tissue that is inside your bones. Blood cells are produced in bone marrow. For a bone marrow biopsy and aspiration, a small sample of solid bone marrow tissue is removed (biopsy) and a sample of tissue in liquid form is removed from inside your bone (aspiration). These samples are examined under a microscope or tested in a lab.

What are the risks?

As with any biopsy, there are risks of bleeding and infection. With bone marrow biopsies these risks are extremely low (<1%).

How do you prepare?

Usually, bone marrow biopsies are performed with IV sedation and local anesthesia. Though some people may choose to proceed with local anesthetic only. If you choose to have IV sedation, you will need to be fasting for 8 hours before the procedure and have someone who can drive you to and from the hospital that day.

How is the procedure performed?

The biopsy will be done at El Camino Hospital under CT guidance.  An entire team will be taking care of you during the procedure including a radiology nurse, a radiology technologist and the physician. You will be connected to heart, blood pressure and oxygen monitors.

  • An IV will be inserted into one of your veins to provide access for fluids and medications (if getting IV sedation)..

  • A low dose CT scan will be done to visualize your pelvic bone, specifically the iliac bone.

  • Procedure area will then be prepped and sterilized.

  • You will be given moderate sedation also known as “twilight” sedation through your IV to make you comfortable.

  • A local anesthetic will be applied to the procedure site to numb the area.

  • For the biopsy, a hollow needle will be inserted into the iliac bone to remove a small sample of solid tissue from your bone marrow.

  • For the aspiration, fluid will be drawn up through this hollow needle from the bone marrow.

  • The needle will be removed and sterile skin glue is applied to the puncture site.

  • Procedure time is about 15-20 minutes.

What you can expect after the procedure?

After the procedure you will be transferred to the post surgical area for recovery.  Your vital signs and the site of the procedure will be monitored for 30-60 minutes.  Don’t worry, you will be able to eat and drink right after the procedure and your family members will be able to see you then.  If you are feeling well you will be able to go home.

At home, we recommend that you take it slow for the remainder of the day. You should not drive or operate heavy machinery until the following day after the procedure, if you received IV sedation.

How long does it take to recover?

Most patients should be able to return to their normal activities the day after the procedure.  You may have some mild pain at the procedure site, but it should not limit your normal activities.  If necessary you can apply an ice pack or take Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for pain relief.

What should you watch for?

Pain should not be getting worse and should subside in 2-3 days. If you develop severe pain or if the pain is getting worse you should call us at 650-404-8445 and seek immediate medical attention.

Worsening of pain, redness, warmth or discharge at the site of the procedure may be signs of infection.

How long does it take to get the biopsy results?

Usually, it takes 2 business days to get the results back. However, in some cases, it may take up to 1 week, if additional studies need to be performed. The results of your biopsy will go directly to your referring physician.

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