Multiple Myeloma

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What Can You Expect from a Bone Marrow Biopsy?

Dr. Ravi Vij Siteman Cancer Center, Washington University

Physicians use bone marrow biopsies to obtain further details about your multiple myeloma. So, what can you expect from a bone marrow biopsy?

First, you will talk to your doctor prior to the biopsy about what medications you will take. If you’re going to have a local anesthetic or conscious sedation there may be food restrictions. You may also discuss whether you want anti-anxiety medications to relax you.

When you have the procedure you will lie face down. Generally, you won’t need to change your clothes—the health professional who does the procedure simply needs access to the back of your pelvic area. So you may be able to just pull up a top or shirt and pull down your pants slightly. A numbing medication will be injected and then a special needle will be inserted into the hip bone.

A small sample of bone marrow fluid will be sucked out. “At that time one may have a twinge of pain”, says Dr. Ravi Vij, a medical oncologist from Washington University St. Louis. But he says “usually it is not very bad because one has already given an anesthetic lidocaine usually before the procedure starts.” The skin is then bandaged. You may shower but you shouldn’t bathe or swim for 48 hours.

The procedure takes about 30-45 minutes to complete, after which patients are able to return home.

The extracted bone marrow is sent to check for high amounts of plasma cells indicative of myeloma, as well as any deficiencies in red and white blood cells caused by the overcrowding of cancerous plasma cells. Pathologists use these results to determine whether you have multiple myeloma, and if you do, they then examine the underlying genetic makeup of the cancer cells to assess your risk level.

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Dr. Ravi Vij is a Medical Oncologist at Washington University. Read More