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Bone marrow aspiration
  1. B J Bain
  1. Department of Haematology, St Mary's Hospital Campus of Imperial College School of Medicine, Praed Street, London, W2 1NY, UK
  1. Dr Bain b.bain{at}


Bone marrow aspiration biopsies are carried out principally to permit cytological assessment but also for immunophenotypic, cytogenetic, molecular genetic, and other specialised investigations. Often, a trephine biopsy is carried out as part of the same procedure. Bone marrow aspirations should be carried out by trained individuals who are aware of the indications, contraindications, and hazards of the procedure. They should follow a standard operating procedure. The operator should have made an adequate assessment of clinical and haematological features to ensure both that appropriate indications exist and that all relevant tests are performed. For the patient's comfort and safety, the posterior iliac crest is generally the preferred site of aspiration. Films of aspirated marrow and, when appropriate, films of crushed particles should be made and labelled. Once thoroughly dry, films should be fixed and stained. As a minimum, a Romanowsky stain and a Perls' stain are required. A cover slip should be applied. The bone marrow films should be assessed and reported in a systematic manner so that nothing of importance is overlooked, using a low power, then intermediate, then high power objective. A differential count should be performed. An interpretation of the findings, in the light of the clinical and haematological features, should be given. The report should be signed or computer authorised, using a secure password, and issued in a timely manner.

  • bone marrow aspirate
  • haematological diagnosis

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  • An accompanying article by Barbara Bain on bone marrow trephine biopsies will be published in the October issue of the journal.