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What To Expect During Bone Marrow Tests

Bone marrow tests usually take about 30 minutes. The tests can be done in a hospital, doctor's office, or other health care facility.

Bone marrow tests generally are done on the pelvic bone. In most people, part of this bone is accessible on the lower back. If your doctor uses that part of the pelvic bone, you'll lie on your side or stomach for the test. Aspiration might be done on the breastbone.

Medicine will be used to numb the area where your doctor will insert the needle. Although you'll be awake during the tests, the medicine helps reduce pain.

If you're very nervous or anxious, your doctor may give you medicine to help you relax or sleep. If so, your health care team will closely check your breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure during the tests.

The area on your body where your doctor will insert the needle is cleaned and draped with a cloth. Your doctor will see only the site where the needle is inserted. He or she will make a small incision (cut) in your skin. This makes it easier to insert the needle into the bone. After the test, you might need stitches to close the cut.

For bone marrow aspiration, your doctor will insert the needle into the marrow and remove a sample of fluid bone marrow. You may feel a brief, sharp pain. The fluid that's removed from the bone marrow will be taken to a laboratory and studied under a microscope.

If your doctor decides to do a bone marrow biopsy, it will be done after the aspiration. For the biopsy, your doctor will use a needle to remove a sample of bone marrow tissue. Thin sections of this tissue will be studied under a microscope.

During both tests, it's important for you to remain still and as relaxed as possible (if you're awake).

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Bone Marrow Tests Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Bone Marrow Tests, visit

December 20, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.