Bone marrow biopsy

During a bone marrow biopsy, bone marrow and bone marrow blood are extracted from the pelvic bones. The examination is necessary to diagnose diseases of the blood.

Blood cells are formed (red and white blood corpuscles) in the bone marrow. Diseases of the blood cells and blood formation can be particularly well diagnosed with a bone marrow biopsy. This includes leukaemia, anaemia and clotting disorders.

What preparations are carried out before the procedure?

A bone marrow biopsy will only be carried out if the patient is suspected of suffering from a disease of the blood cells or blood formation. This suspicion generally arises from a blood examination after a sample is taken from a vein or a fingertip.

No special preparation is needed for a bone marrow biopsy. If the patient is taking blood-thinning medication, they must stop taking it before the biopsy to avoid haemorrhaging.

How is the examination carried out?

A bone marrow biopsy or bone marrow puncture is usually carried out on an outpatient basis. The rear iliac crest is best place for the biopsy because the bones there are situated just under the skin, and no nerves or vessels can be injured. The patient lies on their side with bent legs. Firstly, the skin and the perostium are numbed with a local anaesthetic. Then the biopsy needle is inserted into the skin via a minute incision and fed through until it reaches the bone marrow. A small cylinder of bone marrow material is cut out and removed with the needle.

Then some blood is sucked out of the bone marrow with a second needle and a syringe (bone marrow aspiration). It can sometimes be a rather painful or uncomfortable sensation despite the anaesthetic.

The examination lasts around 15 minutes and is carried out on an outpatient basis.

The bone marrow and bone marrow blood will then examined in the laboratory using different methods.

What is the success rate of this examination?

Leukaemia, blood formation disorders and the function of the blood cells can be reliably diagnosed with a bone marrow biopsy.

What are the possible complications and risks of this examination?

A bone marrow biopsy is generally a low-risk procedure. However, blood haematomas or infections in the injection site which are normally easy to treat can sometimes occur.

What happens after the examination?

The injection site will be covered with a plaster and a pressure pad to prevent haematomas. The pressure pad can be removed again in approx. one hour. Increased physical activity should be avoided for 24 hours after the bone marrow biopsy.

The comprehensive findings of the examination will be available in a few days. The next steps will be decided based on the diagnosis which eventuates.

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