The two bone marrow tests are aspiration and biopsy. Aspiration is usually done first to collect a small amount of bone marrow fluid through a needle. Often a biopsy test is done at the same time as the aspiration test. A biopsy test collects a small amount of bone marrow tissue through a larger needle. These tests most commonly are done to help find the cause of low or high blood cell counts. They also play an important role in monitoring how well treatments for certain types of cancers, such as leukemia or lymphoma, are working.
Before this procedure, be sure to tell your doctor about current medicines you are taking, known allergies to medicines, if you are pregnant, or if you have a bleeding disorder. This test may not be safe for people with certain bleeding disorders such as hemophilia.
Bone marrow tests can be done in a hospital, doctor’s office, or other health care facility. You will be awake for your test and may be given medicine to relax you during the test. You will lie on your side or stomach. Your doctor will clean and numb the top ridge of the back of a hipbone, called the posterior iliac crest, where the needle will be inserted. You may feel a brief, sharp pain when the needle is inserted and when the bone marrow is aspirated. The bone marrow samples will be studied in a laboratory.
After your test, you will have a small bandage on the site where the needle was inserted. Most people go home the same day. You will need a ride home if you received medicines to relax you during the test. You may have mild discomfort for about a week. Your doctor may have you take an over-the-counter pain medicine. Call your doctor if you are in severe pain or if you develop a fever, redness, swelling, or discharge at the needle injection site.
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The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) leads or sponsors many studies aimed at preventing, diagnosing, and treating heart, lung, blood, and sleep disorders.