Bone marrow aspiration

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What is a BMA (bone marrow aspiration)?

Blood cells are made in the bone marrow which is the spongy inside part of bones. A bone marrow aspiration is to find out if cells in the bone marrow are healthy. A small amount of marrow is sucked out of the bone (aspirated) and examined in the laboratory.

The procedure is performed by a doctor or nurse in the operating theatre under a general anaesthetic. A needle is put through the skin into the hip bone and a sample of marrow is sucked into a syringe. Afterwards a small sticky dressing is placed over the area to cover the needle prick.

Sometimes there can be a small amount of bleeding from the needle site but this is not common. The nurse will change the dressing and show how to press on the area to stop the bleeding.

Sometimes an infection can start at the place where the needle went in. See What do I need to do at home after my child's discharge from hospital? about removing the dressing to help prevent an infection starting.

Does a bone marrow aspiration hurt?

Not at the time as your child will be asleep and will not feel anything or be aware of the procedure happening. The anaesthetist or another doctor will prescribe medicine for any soreness afterwards.  See the following pages:

Will my child need to stay in hospital overnight?

  • no, unless your child is in hospital for other treatment. After the procedure, your child will have a sleep in bed in the ward or day stay area where they will be monitored by nurses until fully awake
  • your child will stay in the ward or day stay area until they are able to eat and drink and are feeling OK
  • before discharge the nurse will give instructions about removing the dressing and preventing soreness

What will I need to do at home after my child's discharge from hospital?

  • remove the dressing covering the needle prick twenty four hours after the bone marrow aspiration was done. Follow the directions given to you by the nurse in the hospital
  • phone the hospital straight away and tell the doctor or nurse on the ward if you see any of these in the area of the needle prick:
    • redness
    • heat (feels warmer than skin in other parts of the body)
    • fluid oozing out
  • take your child's temperature if you are in any way concerned. If it is 38 degrees Celsius or higher, phone the hospital straight away and tell the doctor or nurse on the ward
  • keep the instructions for stopping pain given to you by the nurse in the hospital. If your child is sore, follow these instructions

If you have printed and filled out the page Important contacts for your child with cancer, you can find the hospital phone number there. If you'd like to fill this out, you can print the page now.

Acknowledgements

All the fact sheets in the Childhood cancer section of this website have been written by health professionals who work in the field of paediatric oncology. They have been reviewed by the members of the National Child Cancer Network (NZ). Medical information is authorised by the National Child Cancer Network Clinical Leader.
This page last reviewed 04 March 2013
© Paediatric Society of New Zealand and Starship Foundation 2005 – 2014
Printed on 01 August 2014. Content is regularly updated so please refer to www.kidshealth.org.nz for the most up-to-date version
Content endorsed by the Paediatric Society of New Zealand