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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.
A bone 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 needle.
A 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.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that says you understand the risks of the test and agree to have it done.
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 lie 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 minutes.
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 later time.
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 study.
The biopsy sample shows normal bone tissue.
Bone tissue may show signs of infection, cancer, or another bone disorder (including Paget's disease, osteomyelitis, a bone cyst, or a noncancerous [benign] bone growth called an osteoma). The bone tissue may also show osteoporosis or osteomalacia, which means the bones are weak.
Most cancer of the bone spreads (metastasizes) to the bone from another part of the body, such as the breast, lungs, 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 leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma. To learn more, 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: Saunders.
ByHealthwise StaffPrimary Medical ReviewerAdam Husney, MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica, MD - Family MedicineDavid Bardana, MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
Current as ofOctober 9, 2017
Current as of:
October 9, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
& E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine & David Bardana, MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
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