Bone Marrow

by Rachel Bhan


The bone marrow produces new blood cells and is seen in the inside of the sternum of the chest, femur of the thighs and pelvic bone. Two types of bone marrow are present, namely, red marrow and yellow marrow (more fat cells). Few white cells are produced in the latter, whereas, platelets, WBC and RBC are developed by the former. Many capillaries and blood vessels are seen in both the marrows.

Yellow marrow is generally seen in the longer bones. Though, all bone marrow is red at birth, more are changed to yellow, as aging takes place. Around 2.6 kg of an adult weight is the bone marrow. Red marrow is commonly seen in the shoulder blades, hip bone, ribs, breast bone, skull and at the femural end.

A bone marrow examination (biopsy and aspiration) involves the usage of a hollow needle (under anaesthesia) for removal of red marrow from the ilium. Malfunctioning or deformation of bone marrow occurs in tuberculosis. Some procedures and diagnostic tests of the marrow aids in detecting diseases, such as, anemia, amyloidosis, pancytopenia, leukemia, sarcoidosis and myeloma. These, result in a decrease in the blood cell and platelet production. The immune system is also weakened, as the radiation and chemotherapy has a static action on the cells of the marrow. This also results in radiation sickness.

A bone marrow biopsy test requires the consent of the family. The patient lies on her side and is anaesthetized. The skin is cleaned and analgesics are given. Aspiration involves the insertion of a needle. It is screwed into the bone through the cortex and the cavity. A syringe is attached to the needle to suck or aspirate the liquid. A biopsy is done by inserting and rotating a trephine needle into the bone, to tear a piece of the marrow, which is extracted along with the needle. After pre-preparation, the procedure requires 5-10 minutes, after which, the patient lies flat over the site of completed procedure. Normal routine activities are performed in the absence of bleeding. Mild pain and soreness is common for the next 24 hours, and analgesics are provided. Bleeding, fever and severe pain calls for immediate attention.

Common Causes of Damaged Bone Marrow

A diseased or damaged bone marrow with improper functioning, requires a immediate stem cell transplant, as it is fatal and survival is difficult. The most common cause for a damaged marrow is leukemia or bone marrow cancer treatment. This destroys the bone marrow cells completely, calling for an immediate transplant, from a bone marrow donor, to replenish the blood cell production. Bone marrow donation is preferred from close family people, as the acceptance rates are high, though other donors are also compatible. Thus, it is apt to say that it saves lives!


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