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A bone biopsy is a procedure in which a small sample of bone is taken
from the body and looked at under a microscope for cancer, infection, or other
bone disorders. The sample of bone can be removed by:
A bone biopsy can be taken from any bone in the body. It is
easiest to get the biopsy samples from bones that are close to the skin surface
and away from any internal organs or large blood vessels.
biopsy is often done on bone areas that show problems on an
X-ray. Computed tomography (CT scan) or a
bone scan may be used to guide the biopsy
bone biopsy is done to:
An open bone biopsy allows your doctor to do surgical
treatment at the same time, if needed.
Before having a bone biopsy, tell your
doctor if you:
Getting ready for a bone biopsy changes depending on the
type of biopsy that will be done.
Before a bone biopsy, you need to sign a form (consent
form) that says you understand the risks of the bone biopsy and agree to have
the procedure done. Make sure that you understand how this procedure is done
before signing the consent form. Talk to your doctor about any concerns you
have regarding the need for the biopsy, its risks, how it will be done, or what
the results will mean. To help you understand the importance of this procedure,
fill out the
medical test information form(What is a PDF document?).
A closed or needle biopsy is done in a hospital or clinic by a doctor who specializes in X-ray tests
(radiologist) or by a surgeon who specializes in
conditions of the bone (orthopedic surgeon).
During the biopsy, you lay on an examining table
or firm bed. It is important to lie very still during the entire procedure.
Tell your doctor if you need to move or get more comfortable. You may feel
pressure or discomfort during the biopsy. A needle biopsy takes 15 to 30
An open biopsy is done in an operating
room by a surgeon. During the biopsy, you lay on an operating bed. An open
biopsy takes 30 to 60 minutes.
In rare cases a special test of your bone tissue (frozen
section) is done while you are having an open biopsy. The bone taken for a
frozen section is quickly frozen, thinly sliced, and looked at under a
microscope. If cancer cells are seen, your surgeon may take out some more of
the bone during the procedure.
You may feel a brief pinch
or sting from the numbing medicine. You may feel pressure or a brief, sharp
pain as the needle enters the bone. You may also feel an aching pain or
pressure when the bone tissue sample is taken out. After the procedure, the
biopsy site may be sore and tender for up to a week. Your doctor will talk to
you about pain medicine.
You will be asleep or the area will be
numb so you will not feel any pain. After the biopsy, you may feel sleepy for
about 2 hours. The biopsy site may be sore and tender for up to a week. Your
doctor will talk to you about pain medicine.
Problems from a bone biopsy are rare. There is
a very small chance that the biopsy needle may break (fracture) the bone or
injure a nerve, blood vessel, or organ near the biopsy site. Surgery may be
needed to treat the problem.
There is a very small chance for a
skin infection or for the bone to become infected (osteomyelitis) or to not
heal well. In rare cases, the bone may become weak and break (fracture) at a
If you take a blood-thinning medicine (such as aspirin, clopidogrel, or warfarin) or if you
have a bleeding disorder, you may have more chance of bleeding from the biopsy
site. Also, some tumors or bone conditions can cause more bleeding after a
biopsy. Your doctor will talk to you about getting clotting factors before this
biopsy to lower your chance of bleeding.
Call your doctor immediately if:
A bone biopsy is a procedure in which a
small sample of bone is taken from the body and looked at under a microscope
for cancer, infection, or other bone disorders. It may take several days to get
the results because the bone sample needs to be specially prepared for
The biopsy sample shows normal
Bone tissue may show signs of
infection, cancer, or another bone disorder (including
osteomyelitis, a bone cyst, or a noncancerous [benign] bone growth
osteoma). The bone tissue may also show
osteomalacia, which means the bones are
Most cancer of the bone
spreads (metastasizes) to the bone from another part of the body, such as the
prostate, or other organs. But bone cancer can also
start in the bone itself (such as osteosarcoma or Ewing's sarcoma).
Reasons you may not be able to
have the biopsy or why the results may not be helpful include:
During a bone biopsy, the doctor
may also take a sample of
bone marrow (bone marrow biopsy). A bone marrow biopsy
is done to check for infection in the bone marrow or to see why the bone marrow
may not be healthy or to check for certain kinds of cancer, such as
lymphoma, or multiple myeloma. For more information,
see the topic
Bone Marrow Aspiration and Biopsy.
Other Works Consulted
Chernecky CC, Berger BJ (2008). Laboratory Tests and Diagnostic Procedures, 5th ed. St. Louis:
October 4, 2012
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & David Bardana, MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
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