What happens to a child before a bone marrow biopsy?

Intermountain Registered Dietitians
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

In preparation for a bone marrow test, the child lies on her side or on her stomach on an exam bed. A pillow or towel may be placed under the child’s hips to raise them up. The doctor washes the skin over the test site with an antibacterial soap. The nurse places sterile towels around the area.

You may stay with your child during the procedure. Some parents choose not to stay. That is all right. A child life specialist may be able to be with you and your child during the tests. The child life specialist can help explain what is going on and help your child relax.

The doctor uses numbing medicines where the test will take place. This is so your child will not feel the needle as much. Two choices of numbing medicines are available:

  • A numbing cream (EMLA) may be placed over the skin where the test takes place. A plastic bandage is placed over the cream. The cream needs to be placed one hour before the test.
  • The doctor may place a small amount of numbing medicine into the skin with a small needle where the test will take place. This happens right before the test. The needle may sting at first. The numbing medicine works quickly so the stinging does not last long.

Typically, before a bone marrow test, doctors counsel parents about the reason for, the risks of, and the aftermath of the procedure.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.