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Bone marrow culture
Alternative namesCulture - bone marrow
DefinitionThis is a laboratory test performed on a bone marrow specimen to isolate and identify organisms that cause infection.
How the test is performed
A bone marrow biopsy or aspirate is performed (see bone marrow biopsy and bone marrow aspiration articles). A sample of bone marrow is placed on culture media in containers for the purpose of growing microorganisms (bacteria, fungus, or viruses) in the laboratory. Microorganisms that grow will later be identified under the microscope.
The microbiologist in the laboratory inspects the cultures daily for growth of organisms. If microorganisms are detected, other tests may be performed to determine which drugs will kill the organisms. Definitive antimicrobial therapy can then be initiated based on these results.
How to prepare for the testA bone marrow aspiration or biopsy is necessary to collect the specimen for the culture. This procedure is performed by a physician, usually a hematologist (blood specialist).
Infants and children:
The preparation you can provide for this procedure depends on your child's age, previous experiences, and level of trust. For specific information regarding how you can prepare your child, see the following topics:
How the test will feel
The specimen is collected from the back of the pelvic bone or from the sternum. The area is cleansed with antibacterial soap. The skin over the bone will be numbed with an anesthetic (a bee-sting sensation). Then a larger needle will be inserted through the skin into the bone and pushed into the cavity of the bone that contains the marrow.
A sample of bone marrow is aspirated into a syringe for analysis. Pressure and pain may occur with this procedure. Soreness at the site usually lasts only hours to a day or two.
Why the test is performedThe test may be performed when unexplained fever is present or if infection of the bone marrow is suspected.
Normal ValuesNo organism growth in the culture media is normal.
What abnormal results meanInfection of the bone marrow is present. The infection may be bacterial, viral, or fungal.
What the risks areThe risks include bleeding and infection.
Special considerationsA bone marrow aspirate or biopsy specimen may be sent for many different types of tests, which may, with proper indications, increase costs considerably.
Update Date: 6/1/2003Marcia S. Brose, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Hematology/Oncology, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT