Bone Marrow Biopsy & Pain


If you are or a loved one is about to go through a bone marrow biopsy, there are many aspects and facts to learn about it beforehand. You need to know about what occurs during a bone marrow biopsy, pain management after the procedure and the risks involved.

Bone Marrow

In the large bones of the body, there is a substance called bone marrow. Bone marrow is a soft, sponge-like material that contains the cells needed for blood production. Platelets and red and white blood cells are produced in the marrow. A bone marrow biopsy can determine if you are high or low on these blood components, as well as determine how effective chemotherapy will be in the treatment of cancer.


A bone marrow biopsy is taken from a place where the bone is closest to the skin to avoid as much pain as possible. These areas include the hip/pelvis, breastbone, lower back, or lower leg bone. The doctor will clean the biopsy area and place material of some kind around it to avoid contamination of the sterile area. Local anesthetic will be administered to the biopsy site to minimize the pain of the procedure. For a bone marrow biopsy, a large needle is then pushed through the skin and into the bone, where a small portion of bone marrow will be taken up into the needle for testing.

Pain Management

Throughout the procedure, the only pain you should feel is a slight stinging sensation when the local anesthetic is administered, and then a pressure, sometimes small or sometimes great, when the needle is being pushed in and pulled out. However, this pressure is sometimes described as pain, and usually only when local anesthesia is not administered properly or not given enough time to numb the area. After the procedure, most patients will complain of pain of the injection site after the anesthetic has worn off. The doctor will usually prescribe some pain medication based on the amount of pain the patient describes.


As with any procedure, there are some risks with bone marrow biopsy. Fortunately, these risks are few and are generally not fatal. Pain after such a procedure is normal and is considered a risk of the process. Another risk includes the inability to heal and infection of the biopsy site, including the bone itself and the tissue above it. Finally, a reaction to the local anesthetic or cleaning solution is always possible, though rare. With any of these risks come management procedures, so alerting your doctor to them immediately will serve in your best interests in counteracting them.

Testing Time Frame

After the bone marrow biopsy procedure, the material collected from your bones will be sent to the lab for testing. These tests are many and varied, depending on what the doctors are looking for and the procedures needed to see these things. It normally only takes a few days to receive bone marrow biopsy results. However, if it is a larger hospital or the labs are backed up, it could take longer. Your doctor will generally call you with the results, good or bad.

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