Top of the page
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:
What you need to do before a bone biopsy depends on the type of biopsy you're having.
Be sure you have someone to take you home. Anesthesia and pain medicine will make it unsafe for you to drive or get home on your own.
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).
An open biopsy is done in an operating room by a surgeon.
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.
A needle bone biopsy takes 15 to 30 minutes. An open bone biopsy takes 30 to 60 minutes.
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 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 at a later time.
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 non-cancerous [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).
Current as of: December 27, 2021
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineE. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal MedicineMartin J. Gabica MD - Family MedicineDavide Bardana MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
Current as of: December 27, 2021
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine & Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine & Davide Bardana MD, FRCSC - Orthopedic Surgery, Sports Medicine
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2022 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.