Bone marrow biopsies are performed to check for cancer and other diseases that impact your blood. A bone marrow biopsy is performed by inserting a large needle into your bone, usually your hip bone, to extract a bone marrow sample.
While this procedure can be intimidating, there are pain management options and techniques the doctor uses to help reduce or eliminate pain.
Receiving IV sedation is one option to reduce the pain and anxiety of a bone marrow biopsy. The sedation is used in combination with a local anesthetic and can make the procedure much easier for patients.
Bone marrow biopsies may also be done under general anesthesia, while you’re unconscious. But this is usually done if the procedure is performed during surgery or another procedure.
A bone marrow biopsy is a medical test that allows your bone marrow to be examined in a lab. Bone marrow is the soft tissue in the center of your bones that makes blood cells. Your bone marrow might need to be examined if you’re having trouble making blood cells.
The test can check for cancer of the blood like leukemia or lymphoma or to check if another type of cancer has spread to your bone marrow. If you’re already being treated for cancer, a bone marrow biopsy can check how your body is responding to chemotherapy.
Beyond cancer, a bone marrow biopsy can be used if you have:
- unexplained anemia
- low iron levels
- abnormal numbers of any type of blood cell
A biopsy is done by inserting a small needle into your bone. A sample of your bone marrow is then extracted. The sample is sent to a lab and examined.
You’ll always receive a local anesthetic before a bone marrow biopsy. Local anesthesia is given by injection at the site the biopsy will be performed. The local anesthesia will numb the site and reduce the pain of the bone marrow biopsy.
You can also choose to receive sedation during the procedure. Sedation can help manage any stress or fear you have about the bone marrow biopsy. It can also provide additional pain relief.
Sedation is offered in addition to the local anesthesia and is given via IV. You’ll receive it during the entire procedure. You’ll be awake under this type of sedation, but you’ll be relaxed and shouldn’t feel pain.
Your sedative might be a combination of a benzodiazepine, an anti-anxiety medication, and a pain medication. It could also be a benzodiazepine alone.
Research shows that using local anesthesia and sedation together is beneficial for patients having a bone marrow biopsy. Studies have found that there are several benefits to using sedation and local anesthetic including decreased anxiety and pain.
Some people might experience short-term amnesia under sedation. This means they may not form a memory of the biopsy and may have less distress. These benefits can make a bone marrow biopsy a lot easier.
Studies have shown that using sedation increases patient cooperation with the procedure and reduces patient fear about future bone marrow biopsy. Additionally, children report less pain and less distress when they receive sedation during a bone marrow biopsy.
There are some possible side effects associated with any type of IV sedation. But any side effects can be managed by the medical team performing the biopsy.
Side effects also resolve quickly once the biopsy is complete. For instance, you’ll receive oxygen during the procedure if the sedation is slowing down your breathing.
Additional possible side effects include:
You’ll need to lie still during a bone marrow biopsy.
You’ll feel the biopsy site is cleaned with a sterile solution. You’ll be given local anesthesia once the sight is prepared. You’ll feel a small pinch when the local anesthesia is injected. The biopsy is then performed by inserting a large needle into the bone.
The doctor performing the procedure will rotate the needle inside your bone to collect the bone marrow sample. You might feel pain and pressure in your bone while the needle is inserted. The pain will stop when the needle is pulled back out.
A combination of local anesthesia and sedation can prevent you from feeling the pain and pressure. It can also help you lie still and relax during your biopsy.
Not everyone needs or wants sedation during their bone marrow biopsy. But for many people, sedation can help make the procedure much easier. It’s a good choice if you’re nervous about your bone marrow biopsy, especially since the side effects are minimal.
A local anesthetic is always given during a bone marrow biopsy. It’ll numb the area and reduce pain.
Receiving sedation in addition to a local anesthetic can provide additional pain relief and can reduce the distress of a bone marrow biopsy. Studies have shown that patients who receive sedation experience less pain and less anxiety.
Sedation is safe, with very few side effects.