Bone Marrow Biopsy Experiences

Eventually, many of us will experience the joys (maybe not!) of a bone marrow biopsy, where an aspirate (sample) is removed from the top of the hip bone or less often the breastbone. There has been some lively discussion recently on the CLLSLL yahoo group about the procedure. In short, some found it a non event and others have no wish to repeat it any time soon! It all seems to depend on how experienced the person doing the procedure is, whether or not you are sedated and the equipment used.

I was lightly sedated when I had this procedure, so I have no recollection of it, but for a few weeks afterwards, I would have appreciated my local council spending more on keeping the road surfaces in better condition!

More experiences here:

What has been your experience?


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15 Replies

  • Totally agree it is down to the person doing it. 1st time by a male doctor, non event. 2nd by a female technician who didn't have the strength to drive the needles in. Was a very unnervingexperience and probabl the worst since being diagnosed. No knock out drops for me, I manned it out. ;)

  • I've had this procedure twice.

    First time was in the prep for my first FCR cycle in July last year. Second was three months after the last cycle end.

    I'd heard bad things about it and my consultant had explained that the nurse doing it was really good. I wrongly suspected he was preparing me for something bad. In fact both times it was a bit of a non-event.

    One thing that surprised me was there was no form of drilling, it was just a really hard push. You sort of have to hang on to the edge of the bed. That having been said, i'd rather have that done than boing to the dentist, based on my two experiences. The sevond thing that surprised me was it was a procedure on the back of the pelvis, where tissue is at it's thinnest, i'd not researched it before going and had assummed marrow--- femur (i have dogs).

    The spot where the thing was inserted was a little tender for a few days, but only to the touch, not when sitting around.


  • I've had a couple too, and how painful it is does seem to be down to the person doing it and their technique. The first time was quite painful I have to admit and I was expecting similar discomfort when I had the second. That was reflected in my blood pressure which caused the nurse to ask if I was apprehensive (oh, yes!). In the event, the second one, carried out by a different doctor was much less painful and really nothing to write home about.

    The aftermath in both cases was nothing really.

    Personally I'd still rather go to the dentist - unless it's for root canal treatment....

  • Blanket BMBs aren't done in Canada, in cases of suspected cytopenias, ITP, MDS certainly... I have never had one... no holes in my pelvis ;-)

  • So does it follow that BMBs are more painful in Canada due to less practised medical staff?

    What would be interesting is the background behind this difference and whether any comparative studies on the accuracy of diagnosis or long term survival with a similar country that does do BMBs has been done.

    Are you aware of anything Chris?


  • It must vary between countries, here it is ahead of treatment or if there are physical concerns.

    Physical concerns caused me to have one, the procedure was a little odd it felt a bit weird but was not painful itself. A brief local took care of that ahead.

    However the doc who did mine struggled with my bone density I wonder if being an ex rugby player and long time builder affected this? As he had to have a few attempts.. My heamatologist joked before "you'd better take a cordless drill with you" looking at the size of me, I thought he was joking. Not having had two I can't comment on different techniques.

    However the same year I had to have a few dental extractions and the slighter lady dentist managed the largest molar without pain, the guy who did the second had to do everthing barl put a foot on my chest . I still would rather have a BMB though.

  • I had one on diagnosis in May 2010. It was quite quick and painless. I was chatting with a student doctor who wanted to watch the procedure. That was in London at Homerton University Hospital.

    Seems that they vary according to who does it. Mine was done by a young Asian consultant and I know it was her first but it was quite straightforward.

  • My first and only ( so far) was performed at the Dr's office with an assistant along side her.

    The sealed kit that she arrived with was quite impressive. The tools, viles, etc necessary to collect the specimen were all quite organized, within.

    It was more anticipation and my sweating that was more of a concern than the actual procedure which took a very short period of time, even though it seemed like an eternity at the time. Mild discomfort noted; however I've had far worse fillings performed on my teeth. When procedure was completed I asked to see the specimen and we spoke about it for a shoert time..Don't fear it-- asked about the dr's experience in doing this type of procedure. Like anything else -if you have the right tools in the hands of a professional, you know the job is going to be done right.. and you don't need to seek them out on "Angie's List"-- Be well ! :)

  • I expected a BMP to be as painful as a steroid injection into the hip joint from what I had been told. It was definitely a non-event.

  • I have had one BMB and it was all pretty straight forward with just a sore spot on the pelvis for a week or so. The Dr did observe that my bones were on the soft side which made things a little easier. The one thing that did happen was that immediately after the BMB my white cell count went up by a factor of 5 almost overnight but then settled down again over the next couple of weeks. Having had to have teeth extracted because of infection arising from the CLL I much prefer the BMB!

  • Hi I have had three and can agree that it depends upon the person doing it.1st one was a student Dr and it hurt at the time and for at least a fortnight after. 2nd a large framed male Dr, this was more uncormfortable than painful. 3rd by female Dr, this was the worst of the lot. She had not felt for a site like 2nd Dr the procedure has not fully carried out as when she asked whether she could have another go I said NO. I have told my consultant I will not have another one done. He said that if necessary he would do it himself ot under a general. So be careful and ask difficult questions do not be fobbed off.

  • J3024's comment brought back to me when i had to have a steroid injection in my elbow. I was warned it would hurt. It was excruciating and lasted for three days before i could even bear to touch it. Bone Martow Biopsy was nothing, if i rated them on a scale of 1 to 100 the steroid in jection was 100 and the BMB didnt even reach 1.


  • I've had one BMB prior to commencement of my first FCR. I found the experience really painful, definitely gripping onto the edge of the bed. The fact that the doctor had to go in twice to get a "proper" sample didn't help. Sounds like I was unlucky and had a less experienced doctor than some of you guys. Could be coming up for my 2nd soon and not looking forward to the experience.


  • I've not had any BMB yet either before or after FCR! I'm due a scan at the end of July.

  • David has had two bone marrow biopsies. Both doctors were very confident and reassuring beforehand, but both times (pre and post chemo) the marrow was dry and the sample very inadequate. The first indicated he had a 94% infiltrate of CLL cells. we have had a variety of interpretations of the post chemo bone marrow biposy; "scarred" "inadequate" etc. Had a valium before the first procedure, terribly painful and morphine before the second, also horribly painful. So, in a word, awful.

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