Bone Marrow Biopsy Tips & Pics

For people with myeloproliferative neoplasms (MPN), bone marrow biopsies (BMB) are part of the medical treatment.

Talking with other patients about the bone marrow biopsy experience brought back memories of women comparing childbirth stories. Everyone has their personal story, and thoughts on how it “should” go. There appears to be a continuum of preferences, from “all natural” to “wake me when it’s over.”

The BMB Procedure

image from University of Chicago Medicine website

It’s a really straight-forward procedure.  The doctor injects some numbing medicine at the rump site and the anesthesiologist gives me some twilight meds so I can be awake but not really care that someone is drilling into my tailbone (posterior iliac crest).

Since I have a pretty high pain tolerance and don’t like anesthesia, I was inclined to just have the local numbing where the needle would be inserted. I decided research this a bit. So I turned to the definitive resource, YouTube. Believe it or not, some people have had their BMBs videotaped! After seeing a couple of patients (with the local anesthetic) cry out in pain and yell at their doctors to “hurry it up!” I decided to go with the “twilight anesthesia.”

My First BMB — at the hospital

March, 2010:     I decided to find some levity in this upcoming procedure. So I asked my daughter to draw me some “rumper stickers” the night before the big poke. On my right cheek, she wrote “Private Property” and on the left she wrote “Bad 2 the Bone.”
This was a CT-guided bone marrow biopsy (the doctor can see where he’s drilling). When the nurses got me situated on the CT platform, they both seemed surprised when they saw the rump notices. “Let’s not tell the doctor — he’ll be surprised!” one of them said to the other. Apparently this does not happen all the time.
The next thing I knew, the twilight juice was flowing and while I think I remember being awake during the procedure, I truly do not know. I could feel some pressure, but it was not at all painful.

My Second BMB — at the hospital

January, 2013:     This was my second CT-guided bone marrow biopsy.   Thanks to one of the most authoritative resources, YouTube, I showed Katrina and Alex some BMBs that patients had recorded and posted.  The numbing of the bone is really painful.  Some go through the procedure without the twilight (conscious) anesthesia.  I thought about it… for a nanosecond.  I’ve been dealing with so much chronic pain that if I have a chance at some legal relief, I’m all in!  I may have “chemo brain” but I haven’t totally lost it. I gave up the martyr crown a long time ago.  And thank goodness I have great health insurance!

When Katrina saw the video where the doctor said, “Oops!” a couple of times, she started to become real sympathetic.  

This Year’s “Rump Art”
I want the medical staff to see me as a person, not a procedure.  Thanks to the creativity of many friends on Facebook, I got lots of suggestions for what my daughter would write on my rump.  Last time, she wrote “Private Property” and “Bad 2 the Bone” above each cheek.  Some of this year’s top suggestions:

  • You Break It, You Buy It
  • Objects in rear are closer than they appear
  • Left        Right
  • You’d better buy me dinner first
  • Warning — Blast Zone

Here’s the winner:


My Third BMB – Pre-Transplant Baseline

June, 2013:     This bone marrow biopsy is the “baseline” measure for my matched unrelated donor (MUD) stem cell transplant (SCT).  This one was done in the out-patient blood and marrow transplant clinic by a nurse practitioner. This time, I received the local anesthetics and a mild sedative. This was the first BMB that hurt like a son-of-a-gun!  It is hard to complain when there is a metal tube stuck in your rump.  When the procedure was complete, I complained about it being the most painful experience I’ve had in a long time. I was surprised since I felt pressure but

Wanted: Healthy New Stem Cells

Wanted: Healthy New Stem Cells

no pain during my first two BMBs.

Turns out the difference is that sedation with an anesthesiologist is much stronger than what can be administered without an anesthesiologist.

My Fourth BMB – 100 Days Post-Transplant

October, 2013:     This time, I made sure they gave me as much sedation as allowed outside the hospital setting. The process was MUCH better. The sedation I received really reduced the pain. I could talk with the people in the room (including my husband who took a few pics for me), could feel the pressure, but the pain was very manageable.

Here’s the Rump Art my friend Libbi did for this BMB:

Day +100 Show Me the Marrow

Day +100 Show Me the Marrow

The Rump Art has become a kind of ritual for me to prepare for the procedure the next day. It also provides a way for me to talk about it with my family.

It gives the medical staff a smile, too.



BMB #5

Rump art for my 5th bone marrow biopsy

Rump art for my 5th bone marrow biopsy


Some positive affirmations for my donor’s stem cells!

Chimerism was slow going. I needed lots of encouragement!








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