What is Bone Marrow Biopsy?

Bone marrow biopsy techniques are used to diagnose conditions affecting the bone marrow. These include anemia, myelofibrosis, and leukemia.

There are two main types of bone marrow biopsy: needle aspiration and core biopsy. Bone marrow needle aspiration will involve using a needle and syringe to collect cell samples from the bone marrow. Core biopsy is a surgical procedure that is more invasive than aspiration. Dogs undergoing bone marrow aspiration will need to be sedated; those undergoing core biopsy will need to be anesthetized.

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Bone Marrow Biopsy Procedure in Dogs

Bone Marrow Aspiration

  1. The veterinarian will first conduct a physical exam as well as diagnostic tests to evaluate the condition.
  2. A short-acting sedative will be administered alongside local anesthesia.
  3. A needle attached to an empty syringe is inserted into the bone marrow.
  4. The plunger of the syringe is pulled back. This process, known as aspiration, draws cells into the syringe.
  5. The cell sample is transferred to a slide, which the veterinarian will then examine under a microscope.

Bone Marrow Core Biopsy

  1. The dog’s blood is evaluated to ensure it is safe to administer general anesthesia.
  2. Anesthesia is administered intravenously. The operative area is shaved and cleaned before local anesthetic is administered.
  3. The veterinary surgeon will use a scalpel to incise the skin and subcutaneous tissues.
  4. A Jamshidi needle is used to retrieve a sample of bone marrow. The surgeon may aspirate the marrow in addition to obtaining a core sample.
  5. The sample is transferred to a microscope slide, which will be sent to a veterinary histopathologist for examination.
  6. The initial incision site is sutured.

Efficacy of Bone Marrow Biopsy in Dogs

Bone marrow biopsy is extremely effective in diagnosing bone marrow conditions. The method of analysis differs with each biopsy technique. Samples obtained via bone marrow aspiration are analyzed using cytology, while core biopsy samples are analyzed using histopathology. Cytology often provides an immediate diagnosis. However, cytology only evaluates cell structure and function. Histopathology evaluates the anatomy of both cells and tissues. Core biopsy may be recommended when cytologic evaluation fails to provide a definitive diagnosis. The results of core biopsy will take a little longer to come back, typically within two days.

Bone Marrow Biopsy Recovery in Dogs

You should monitor your dog for the first few hours after the procedure while the anesthesia and/or sedative wears off. If you notice any signs of allergic reaction, consult your veterinarian immediately. Analgesics may be prescribed to manage postprocedural pain. Dogs that received core biopsy may need to wear an Elizabethan cone until the sutures are removed. Follow-up appointments will be scheduled to discuss test results and treatment, remove sutures, and monitor healing.

Cost of Bone Marrow Biopsy in Dogs

The cost of bone marrow biopsy will vary based on the technique used, as well as standards of living and additional diagnostic costs. The average price of bone marrow biopsy – including the cost of anesthesia, pre-procedural lab testing, and sample analysis – ranges from $450 to $1,500. Aspiration biopsy typically costs less than core biopsy.

Dog Bone Marrow Biopsy Considerations

Bone marrow biopsy, particularly aspiration, is a safe procedure that presents few complications. However, complications of bone marrow biopsy may include:

  • Allergic reaction to sedative or anesthesia
  • Postprocedural pain
  • Fracture
  • Nerve damage (typically occurs with femoral bone marrow sampling)

Bone marrow biopsy may not be recommended for dogs that have conditions that cause severe bleeding or abnormal coagulation. The veterinarian or veterinary surgeon will discuss all possible complications with you prior to the procedure.

Bone Marrow Biopsy Prevention in Dogs

Because of the nature of bone marrow diseases, they are often difficult to prevent. Dogs diagnosed with conditions affecting the bone marrow should not be bred.