Bone marrow aspiration
Bone marrow is the soft tissue inside bones that helps form blood cells. It is found in the hollow part of most bones. Bone marrow aspiration is the removal of a small amount of this tissue in liquid form for examination.
Bone marrow aspiration is not the same as bone marrow biopsy. A biopsy removes actual marrow for examination.
Iliac crest tap; Sternal tap
How the Test is Performed
Bone marrow aspiration may be done in the health care provider's office or in a hospital. The bone marrow is removed from your pelvic or breast bone. Occasionally, another bone is selected.
Marrow is removed in the following steps:
- If needed, you are given medicine to help you relax.
- The health care provider cleans the skin and injects numbing medicine into the area and surface of the bone.
- A special needle is inserted into the bone. The needle has a tube attached to it, which creates suction. A small sample of bone marrow fluid flows into the tube.
- The needle is removed.
- Pressure and then a bandage are applied to the skin.
The bone marrow fluid is sent to a laboratory and examined under a microscope.
How to Prepare for the Test
Tell the health care provider:
- If you are allergic to any medications
- If you are pregnant
- If you have bleeding problems
- What medications you are taking
You must sign a consent form for the procedure.
How the Test will Feel
You will feel a sting and slight burning sensation when the numbing medicine is applied. You may feel pressure as the needle is inserted into the bone, and a sharp and usually painful sucking sensation as the marrow is removed. This feeling lasts for only a few seconds.
Why the Test is Performed
Your doctor may order this test if you have abnormal types or numbers of red or white blood cells or platelets on a complete blood count.
This test is used to diagnose:
- Anemia (some types)
- Other blood cancers and disorders
It may help determine whether cancers have spread or responded to treatment.
The bone marrow should contain the proper number and types of:
- Blood-forming (hematopoietic) cells
- Connective tissues
- Fat cells
What Abnormal Results Mean
Abnormal results may be due to cancers of the bone marrow, including:
Abnormal results may also be due to other causes, such as:
There may be some bleeding at the puncture site. More serious risks, such as serious bleeding or infection, are very rare.
Choby B. Bone marrow aspiration and biopsy. In: Pfenninger JL, Fowler GC, eds. Pfenninger & Fowler's Procedures for Primary Care. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2010:chap 205.
Hutchison RE, McPherson RA, Schexneider KI. Basic examination of blood and bone marrow. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 22nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 30.
Reviewed By:Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency
or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional
should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911
for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they
do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997-A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.
Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.