What Are Bone Marrow Tests?
Bone marrow tests are used to check whether your
bone marrow is healthy. These tests also show whether your bone marrow is
making normal amounts of blood cells.
Bone marrow is the sponge-like tissue inside the
bones. It contains stem cells that develop into the three types of blood cells
that the body needs:
- Red blood cells carry oxygen through the
- White blood cells fight infection.
- Platelets (PLATE-lets) stop bleeding.
Another type of stem cell, called an embryonic
(em-bre-ON-ik) stem cell, can develop into any type of cell in the body. These
cells aren't found in bone marrow.
Doctors use bone marrow tests to diagnose blood and
bone marrow diseases and conditions, including:
- Conditions in which a person produces too few or
too many of certain types of blood cells
- Problems with the structure of red blood
- Bone marrow disorders, such as myelofibrosis
- Some cancers, such as leukemia (lu-KE-me-ah)
Bone marrow tests also help doctors determine how
severe a cancer is and how much it has spread in the body. The tests also are
used to diagnose fevers and infections.
The two bone marrow tests are aspiration
(as-pi-RA-shun) and biopsy.
Bone marrow aspiration usually is done first. For
this test, your doctor removes a small amount of fluid bone marrow through a
needle. He or she may have some idea of what the problem is, and the sample
gives him or her useful information about the cells in the marrow.
A bone marrow biopsy is a followup test. It's done
when an aspiration doesn't give needed information. Or, it's done when the
doctor wants to examine the bone marrow structure itself. For a bone marrow
biopsy, your doctor removes a small amount of bone marrow tissue through a
Bleeding and infection are the two most common risks
of bone marrow tests, but they're rare. The tests are fairly simple, and
they're safe for most people.
In some cases, these tests aren't safe for people
with certain bleeding disorders (like
Your doctor can tell you whether a bone marrow test is safe for you.