Bone marrow aspiration or biopsy

  • Bone marrow samples obtained by aspiration or biopsy can show the presence of the leukaemia cells in the bone marrow which will confirm the diagnosis of ALL.
  • Bone marrow samples are usually taken from the hip bone under local anaesthetic using special biopsy needles:
  • The bone marrow aspiration is usually done first. A small incision in the skin is made, followed by the insertion of a hollow needle through the hip bone and into the bone marrow. A syringe attached to the needle is used to aspirate a sample of the liquid portion of the bone marrow (Figure 7). The aspiration takes only a few minutes.

Figure 7         Bone marrow biopsy

Courtesy of Chad McNeeley – Navy News Service, 021204-N-0696M-180, Public Domain,

  • The bone marrow biopsy is performed using a larger surgical needle with a cylindrical blade, called trephine, and removes a 1 or 2 cm core of bone marrow in one piece.
  • Following the end of the procedure, the needle is removed and a small plaster or dressing applied.
  • Despite the short period of time required for a bone marrow biopsy and positive reports by some patients, most patients are still very nervous to have this procedure done. They have been told by other patients that the procedure can be extremely painful, particularly if it is difficult to get through the hip bone. Pain and discomfort is often experienced afterwards after the anaesthesia wears off.