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A bone marrow biopsy is a test that samples your internal bone tissue. It is an excellent way to analyze if there are any abnormalities in your bone structure. It is considered as one of the more sophisticated tests in medical terms. Doctors don't recommend it unless it is important. By performing it, doctors aim to analyze your blood and the disposition of the cells within it. Many times, a bone marrow biopsy has been a reason for noticing someone's severe problems at an early stage. That's why it could be useful to gain knowledge about this important and valuable test. Information beforehand can help you accommodate yourself to the new set of circumstances.

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What is bone marrow and are there different types of it?

Bone marrow is the spongy tissue placed deep within your bone structure. It's not easily accessible and has many roles that are crucial to the healthy functioning of the human body. It's primary function and purpose is to make red and blood cells. Furthermore, you can also count on it to make platelets, regulate fat levels, and strengthen cartilage and bones. When talking about the types of bone marrows, it's important to know the two – red and yellow. Red bone marrow finds its home in flatter bones, like your hip and vertebrae. During the aging process, more and more red bone marrow becomes yellow because the fat content increases more and more. Because we're talking about bone marrow biopsies, we'll focus on the red. The doctor extracts only that type because it indicates the production of red blood cells and the status of your health.

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How do I know if I'm in need of a bone marrow biopsy?

Don't worry; a complex test like this is not prescribed without reason. A conclusion of performing it is not an easy one, as the doctor will decide upon it only after some more regular tests. He usually orders it after suspecting something abnormal going into your bloodstream. Usually, if you have too much or too low concentrations of platelets or red blood cells, you need it. The doctor recommends the biopsy well in advance, a few days at least. This is for you to prepare mentally and physically, taking all the necessary steps.

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What are some causes of high or low concentrations of red blood cells or platelets?

These are two of the most important cells types in your body. Because of that, it can be hard to pinpoint an exact cause. A bone marrow biopsy in combination with other tests is the way to narrow down the list of suspects. The most common abnormalities found are:

  • Anemia – a low red blood cells count
  • Myelofibrosis and myelodysplastic syndrome, bone marrow conditions that affect the whole body
  • Many blood cells conditions about mutation, defection, and other problems
  • Bone marrow and blood cancers such as leukemia and different types of lymphomas
  • An unknown infection that has struck the body and has altered the blood cell production process
  • Hemochromatosis – a rare condition in which the iron starts building up in the blood too much
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Are there any risks when undertaking a bone marrow biopsy?

Hospitals and doctors' offices are places that house many people. Because of that, there is always a small risk of infection. This is something universal that applies to all tests in the known medical world. There is nothing that you should worry about when undertaking a bone marrow biopsy. Less than one percent of total tests end up in minor complications, which is rare. The most common of all complications is excessive bleeding in certain parts of your body. The main cause is the ruptured tissue or shock from a foreign body within your organism. Some other complications include small infections, due to dirty medical instruments and allergic reactions to medications. People rarely experience allergies to anesthesia, because it's normal to run tests before administering it. The only case when this happens is when an emergency biopsy is to be done, under extreme conditions. Always talk to your doctor about risks and the effect your regular meds have on the biopsy. Don't be afraid of a long conversation. It can only help you feel better, and a remove all the possible risks.

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How do I prepare myself for such a procedure?

Before stepping into your doctor's office for a bone marrow biopsy, discuss the matter. During this chat, you are to discuss all the necessary risks, pointers and details you need to know about. The talk should go something like this:

  • Firstly, you should list all the supplements and medications that you take daily or less frequently.
  • Next, both of you should take a look at your family's medical history, as well as yours.
  • You should also tell the doctor about any allergies to tape, anesthesia meds or about anything else
  • Pregnancy should be checked because having a baby within you carries a risk
  • Finally, you can always ask for additional meds to calm you down on the day of the procedure
  • Never drive after the bone marrow biopsy. For relaxation purposes, have someone come with you, to talk to you and calm you down. The next few days should take proper rest, as well as the night before.
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How exactly is a bone marrow biopsy performed?

The actual procedure takes about ten total minutes. When talking about the whole process, with preparation – it can take up to an hour. First of all, the lab assistant will check your blood pressure and vital signs reports. You should be wearing a hospital gown for better hygiene and sterile conditions. A doctor orders you to sit on your side or lie on the stomach. After that, a small amount of anesthetic will be administered to your body. You can choose from where you will have your marrow taken. The usual spots are the hipbone or the chest bone. The only pain you should feel is the syringe with the anesthetic. After it starts working, you won't feel a thing afterward. Keep in mind that a needle entering your body may be uncomfortable, but don't lose sleep over it. It is over soon, and it's for your best!

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What happens during the aftermath of the procedure?

Something that is most common with patients is the slight pain a few days after the procedure. This is perfectly normal because of the depth of the needle entering your body. To combat this and lead a normal day-to-day life, pain medication is important.

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What do my bone marrow biopsy results mean?

Your results are taken to the lab right away to perform a series of tests. Only when combined, these tests can tell whether you have a serious illness or not. The pathologist will perform all the necessary tests there. If there are suspicious signs that point to a particular disease, your doctor will order additional tests to get to the bottom of the condition. It is a lifesaving and beneficial test, so there is no reason to be afraid.

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Disclaimer

This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.