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Bone Marrow Aspiration

Alternate Names

  • bone marrow tap


Bone marrow aspiration is a procedure in which a sample of bone marrow is removed with a special needle. The sample can then be examined with a microscope to look for various diseases or conditions.

Who is a candidate for the procedure?

This procedure may be advised when a doctor suspects or is concerned about:
  • blood cancer, such as leukemia, which often starts in the bone marrow.
  • other cancer in the body, such as breast cancer, that may have spread to the bone marrow.
  • infection in the bone marrow.
  • certain types of anemia, or low red blood cell counts.
  • other low blood cell counts, such as a low white blood cell count.

How is the procedure performed?

Bone marrow samples are usually taken from the pelvic bone or breastbone, also called the sternum. The skin over the bone is first cleaned with an antiseptic solution. A local anesthetic, or numbing medication, is injected to prevent pain.
Once the area is numbed, a large, hollow needle attached to a syringe is inserted into the bone marrow. A small sample of marrow is sucked, or aspirated, into the syringe and placed on a glass microscope slide. The slide can then be examined under a microscope.


Cancer Principles and Practice of Oncology, 1997, DeVita et al.

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