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Logo of jclinpathJournal of Clinical PathologyVisit this articleSubmit a manuscriptReceive email alertsContact usBMJ
J Clin Pathol. 2001 October; 54(10): 737–742.
PMCID: PMC1731298

Bone marrow trephine biopsy


Trephine biopsies of the bone marrow should be carried out, when clinically indicated, by trained individuals following a standard operating procedure. A bone marrow aspiration should be performed as part of the same procedure. For patient safety and convenience, biopsies are usually performed on the posterior iliac crest. The biopsy specimen should measure at least 1.6 cm and, if it does not, consideration should be given to repeating the procedure, possibly on the contralateral iliac crest. If bone marrow aspiration is found to be impossible, imprints from the biopsy specimen should be obtained. Otherwise, the specimen is placed immediately into fixative and after fixation is embedded in a resin or, more usually, decalcified and embedded in paraffin wax. Thin sections are cut and are stained, as a minimum, with haematoxylin and eosin and with a reticulin stain. A Giemsa stain is also desirable. A Perls' stain does not often give useful information and is not essential in every patient. The need for other histochemical or immunohistochemical stains is determined by the clinical circumstances and the preliminary findings. Trephine biopsy sections should be examined and reported in a systematic manner, assessment being made of the bones, the vessels and stroma, and the haemopoietic and any lymphoid or other tissue. Assessment should begin with a very low power objective, the entire section being examined. Further examination is then done with an intermediate and high power objective. Ideally, reporting of trephine biopsy sections should be done by an individual who is competent in both histopathology and haematology, and who is able to make an appropriate assessment of both the bone marrow aspirate and the trephine biopsy sections. When this is not possible, there should be close consultation between a haematologist and a histopathologist. The report should both describe the histological findings and give an interpretation of their importance. A signed or computer authorised report should be issued in a timely manner. If the report is a preliminary, this must be clearly stated.

Key Words: trephine biopsy • bone marrow • haematological diagnosis

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