A Pathologist's Perspective on Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy: I. Performing a Bone Marrow Examination

Roger S. Riley, Thomas F. Hogan, Dawn R. Pavot, Robert Forysthe, Davis Massey, Eileen Smith, Lou Wright, Jonathan M. Ben-Ezra

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The bone marrow aspirate and biopsy is an important medical procedure for the diagnosis of hematologic malignancies and other diseases, and for the follow-up evaluation of patients undergoing chemotherapy, bone marrow transplantation, and other forms of medical therapy. During the procedure, liquid bone marrow is aspirated from the posterior iliac crest or sternum with a special needle, smeared on glass microscope slides by one of several techniques, and stained by the Wright-Giemsa or other techniques for microscopic examination. The bone marrow core biopsy is obtained from the posterior iliac crest with a Jamshidi or similar needle and processed in the same manner as other surgical specimens. Flow cytometric examination, cytochemical stains, cytogenetic and molecular analysis, and other diagnostic procedures can be performed on bone marrow aspirate material, while sections prepared from the bone marrow biopsy can be stained by the immunoperoxidase or other techniques. The bone marrow procedure can be performed with a minimum of discomfort to the patient if adequate local anesthesia is utilized. Pain, bleeding, and infection are rare complications of the bone marrow procedure performed at the posterior iliac crest, while death from cardiac tamponade has rarely occurred from the sternal bone marrow aspiration. The recent development of bone marrow biopsy needles with specially sharpened cutting edges and core-securing devices has reduced the discomfort of the procedure and improved the quality of the specimens obtained.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)70-90
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Clinical Laboratory Analysis
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Anesthetics, local
  • Biopsy needle
  • Bone marrow examination
  • Bone marrow pathology
  • Diagnostic tests


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