Bone Marrow Sample

What is bone marrow and why is it collected?

The bone marrow is the soft spongy tissue that is found inside your body’s bones; the bone marrow produces your blood cells.

Bone marrow can be examined and used in a number of ways. For example, bone marrow is used to analyze the genetic makeup of individuals and how those genetics react to certain drugs for drug development purposes. Other times, bone marrow biopsies are used to assess diagnoses and treatment of individuals that are suspected of having cancer.

What is the procedure for performing a bone marrow biopsy?

While the length of time and the seriousness of a bone marrow biopsy vary, the basics of the biopsy procedure is relatively the same, just on different scales. In our studies that require the collection of bone marrow, a volunteer has an IV inserted where IV fluids and mild sedation are administered. Afterwards, the volunteer will lie on his or her stomach or side while the physician or assistants clean the skin above the hip bone and administers local anesthetic.

After the anesthetic has taken effect, the physician or other trained individual will insert a needle into the skin. The needle will then enter the bone and remove a small sample of bone marrow, after which the needle will immediately be withdrawn. The physician or assistants will advise the volunteer to maintain pressure on the incision point for five minutes, after which the procedure will be completed. Typically it takes 25-35 minutes from the time the IV is administered to when the bone marrow collection is completed.

What are some potential side effects of having a bone marrow sample taken from my body?

First and foremost, a side effect from bone marrow biopsy that individuals often overlook has nothing to do with the actual collection of bone marrow. It is usually an adverse reaction to the anesthetic. It is very important to inform the site conducting the sample collection of any allergies you might have.

The other side effects are very rare but are possible. Some include infection and persistent bleeding at the site of the incision. If this happens, you need to inform your physician immediately so that steps can be taken to treat you. Also, in rare cases, the volunteer can have indefinite discomfort on the bone from which the bone marrow is extracted. While it is more common to have some discomfort at the point of incision in the hours or potentially days following the biopsy, any lengthy pain is a rare occurrence.

Overall, bone marrow biopsies are safe procedures. But like many medical procedures, they carry rare risks. To make these risks even slighter, it is important that you openly and honestly answer any questions that the physician or assistants ask you.