Bone marrow tests

Bone marrow produces blood cells, including red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets. Bone marrow is found inside the large bones in the body, such as the pelvic bone (the hips). It consists of liquid parts and solid parts.

Your child might have a bone marrow test if your doctor thinks they have a type of blood cancer (such as leukaemia). Your doctor might also use this test to see if cancer has spread to the bone marrow.

Bone marrow samples need to be sent to a laboratory for analysis, so it will usually take a few days for you to find out the results.

Bone marrow tests are almost always done under a general anaesthetic, where your child is asleep.

Bone marrow biopsy

A bone marrow biopsy involves removing a piece of the solid part of the bone marrow from inside a bone, usually the pelvic bone. During the procedure, your doctor will insert a thick needle into the bone to remove a sample of bone marrow. The procedure usually takes less than 10 minutes.

Bone marrow biopsies are painful, which is why children are given a general anaesthetic to put them to sleep so that they don’t feel pain during the procedure.

It is normal for the biopsy site to be bruised and sore for a few days.

Bone marrow aspiration

For a bone marrow aspiration, the doctor will insert a fine needle into a bone (often the pelvic bone) and remove some of the liquid part of the bone marrow. This is done at the same time as a bone marrow biopsy. Both procedures are done in around 10 minutes.

Your child will have a general anaesthetic so that they sleep through the procedure and don’t feel pain.

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