Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy

What is bone marrow?

The soft material in the center of bones is the bone marrow. The bone marrow contains the different types of cells that give rise to red cells, white cells and platelets found in our blood. The marrow may also contain abnormal cells, proteins, or inflammatory processed that are not normally present, such as cancer cells. Since the production of red cells requires iron, the marrow is one of the places in the body that normally stores a supply of iron. When we are younger, our bone marrow contains very little fat. As we age, the percentage of fat in our marrow increases.

What is a bone marrow procedure?

A bone marrow procedure (commonly referred to as a bone marrow or bone marrow aspiration with or without biopsy) is a technique used to obtain the blood-forming portion (marrow) of the inner core of bone for examination in the laboratory or for transplantation. The bone marrow consists of inserting a special needle into a bone and withdrawing the marrow by suction or coring out a sample of the marrow.

Why are bone marrows done?

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Most bone marrows are performed to diagnose various conditions that affect the different types of blood cells. Abnormal blood counts can lead a doctor to suspect that there may be a problem in the bone marrow. Another frequent purpose of a bone marrow is to diagnose certain cancers or to determine the extent of the cancer (cancer staging) within the bone marrow. Bone marrow procedures can also detect uncommon conditions, both cancerous and non-cancerous including abnormal proteins (such as in amyloidosis), inflammation (such as in sarcoidosis), and infection (such as in tuberculosis). This procedure can also be used to obtain marrow for transplantation.

What bone is used to sample the bone marrow?

The most frequent site for obtaining bone marrow is the pelvic bone, known as the ilium. A portion of this bone is readily accessible in most people from the lower back and is usually marked by shallow dimples on either side of the spine. Other sites include the front of the pelvic bone near the groin and the sternum at the front of the chest.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/10/2014

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