I have a list in my head of medical procedures that I have seen on TV that I never want to have happen to me:
– fully conscious brain surgery
– any of those procedures you see on House where a needle is inserted into someone’s eye
– having a needle punctured into my chest to relieve pressure around the heart
On the second tier of those fears is a bone marrow biopsy. I blame years of watching medical TV shows where a bone marrow biopsy is shown as one of the most painful processes possible.
I had mine on Tuesday. I won’t say it was at all pleasant, but anyone can handle anything for 5 minutes. It wasn’t the worst thing I experienced- running half a mile on a broken/sprained ankle was worse. However, the pain in the minute of actual painful things during the procedure was intense.
If anyone is reading this is currently undergoing staging for cancer or has any other reason to have a bone marrow biopsy, there are alternatives to make the process smoother. Many people get IV drips of sedatives. I only took a percocet and an ativan as prescribed by my doctor before I went. And again, you can deal with anything for 5 minutes. Afterward, you’re pretty much a rock star.
The procedure for a bone marrow biopsy, which, in most cases, also includes a bone marrow aspiration, is fairly straightforward.
First, the doctor lays you on your side and covers you with a paper sheet so only the part of your hip/back that he is going to be working on is showing. You are cleaned and given an initial shot of lidocaine. This stings for a few seconds until it kicks in. Then you get a second, deeper shot of lidocaine that you cannot feel. In short, you will not feel anything until the needle pierces the bone because, unfortunately, bone cannot but numbed.
The doctor makes a small incision into your skin to make it easier for the needle to go in. First is the bone marrow aspiration where the liquid part of the bone marrow is sucked up. That hurts. It feels like a painful tugging from deep in your body, but after 30 seconds, it’s over. Next comes the bone marrow biopsy where a larger needle is inserted and removes a portion of the bone marrow itself. There was a lot of pressure and some more pain with this, plus the weird feeling of my doctor really leaning into me.
Then it was done. I was given a bandage, told to lay flat on my back for 10 minutes, and sent on my way.
My friend and I went for Mexican food afterward, if that’s any indication of anything.