Bone Marrow Biopsy

If you are squeemish, you probably shouldn't read this post. Because it's all about #thebonemarrowbiopsy.

I had one today! Over lunch! Mayo style.

I thought I'd tell you about it in case you're interested - but also in case you are ever facing having to have one. I thought I could tell you about it - and then maybe you'd be less afraid. Or, if you have a relative/friend going through it - now you'll have some insights about what's involved.

So here's the scoop.

12:15pm: Nurse took me back to a room in the Infusion Therapy Center. There were two women in the room and me. One was the nurse doing the biopsy and the other was the one collecting all the specimens. The nurse assured me that she'd talk me through the entire process step-by-step as it was happening and it would take about 20 minutes. She said, "the risks of the procedure are bleeding and infection." And then I signed a form that said I consented to the procedure. We confirmed my platelet count of 19 - and she said anytime it's out of the single digits, the nurses are pleased.

Then it was go time. At that point, I was feeling a little anxious because I was afraid of how much it was all going to hurt. I was invited to lay down on my left side with my right hip facing up. The graphic above shows exactly where the action is located. First, the nurse marked the spots she'd be working on. Then she numbed the area. That part hurt like a bee sting. Then it was needle entry time. That part felt like pressure - but no major pain because the skin was numb.

Then came the painful parts. And it WAS pretty painful. I'd love to tell you it didn't really hurt. But it did. But the super painful parts only lasted a matter of seconds. Once the needle was in, it went into the bone marrow to collect blood samples. I think it was about 5 vials of blood and then a tray of slides.

There's not a way to numb the bone, so that whole time hurt. She warned me that it would. Like I said...a lot. Maybe an 8 of 10 on the pain scale. But only for a few seconds. It was short bursts of major ouch. Then there was just pressure.

Then came the most painful part of all. The nurse collected a lil' bone chunk. This is the size...(this isn't my bone chunk; I didn't take any photos. But the sample collector did show me my chunk. And it looked like this).

It REALLY hurt! My hematologist told me it would feel like a bee sting. But it actually felt more like 15 bees stinging my bone marrow at the same time. The nurse coached me to breathe slow and deep - and the slow, deep breathing was a good help and a good distraction.

12:35pm: All done! The nurse packed up the wound site with a pressure pack. It needs to stay on for 24 hours. Then a band-aid for 24 hours. She said it will hurt for several days to several weeks. (I'm rooting for several days). I am invited to take Tylenol as needed (other pain meds are blood thinners, so no go). The wound bled a little more than a normal person would - but not terribly. She just told me to keep pressure on it and if it bleeds through, to go to the ER. There was probably a time that would have sounded scary or overwhelming to me. But after seeing a count of 0, 19 seems like a dream come true.

I was very impressed with the nurse who performed the biopsy procedure. She did a great job. And it must be hard to do that job knowing it's really hurting the patient! She stayed so calm and prompted every single step. She mentioned that the numbing agent would wear off in about an hour. It did wear off, but the pain level didn't go up significantly. I'd rate it about a 4 right now (as of Monday night). Higher than it was immediately after the procedure - but definitely manageable. An ache with a sharper pain at the incision site.

As I was preparing to go, I said, "My hematologist told me that I'd be able to go back to work. I didn't believe him! But I really feel like I'll be fine for the afternoon."

She said, "Yes - for those who opt for the local anesthetic instead of complete sedation, the initially recovery time is quicker. But 80% of people opt for the complete sedation."

I didn't know that statistic ahead of time! I knew that I could choose between the two options - but figured it was 50/50. Had I known, I probably would've joined the other 80%! But looking back, I'm glad I chose the option I did. I don't really like being put under with anesthesia unless totally necessary because there's no driving allowed for 24 hours. Also, I like control - and being awake and knowing exactly what was happening helped me feel some sense of control.

Hopefully the results will reveal a totally normal bone marrow composition. The doctor isn't expecting to find anything new or particularly interesting. And I'm not either.

I headed back to work and had a productive afternoon! So it's really true! You CAN get a bone marrow biopsy over lunch.


  1. Wow! And how long is lunch? Hope all turns out well, and you have more fun things to do over future lunchtimes. My mom had a spinal fluid tap at Mayo once, also very painful.

    1. Lunch was an hour! :) So glad to have the process over. Still just a tiny bit sore in my back - but overall not bad at all.

  2. I have had two bone marrow biopsies. Oh I cried after the second one as they had to take a bigger core. It's much more than a bee sting. Much empathy to anyone that has to have it done. Annelle

    1. Yes, Annelle! It really can be so painful. So so so sorry you had to go through it twice!

  3. Thanks for the description. Good to know that complete sedation is an option.

  4. I promise our lunch date will be significantly more pleasant than this! WOW.

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