On Lumbar Punctures and Bone Marrow Harvests

Left: image of bone marrow harvesting courtesy of Wikipedia

If you ever hear a physician use the words "bone marrow harvest" or "bone marrow biopsy" or "lumbar puncture," I recommend that you discreetly sneak out the back door of whatever institution in which you might be present at that moment.

I'm just sayin'.

There can be nothing pleasant when a doctor inserts sharp pointy needles in your back, that's for sure, and despite all the promises that "Lidocaine will numb you up," there are some bizarre and painful sensations when those needles run into stray nerves. My physician assured me that I would only feel "heavy pressure," but there were some moments when the sharp pain in my back radiated down my left leg like a lightning strike.

Even stranger than the electrifying nerve sensations is the sound of hearing the T-handled trephine needle being twisted into your posterior iliac crest. This is a crunching and grinding noise that I assume is akin to that which accompanies a Velociraptor making quick work of your bony carcass.

The funny part was when the nurse said that "it's usually after the Lidocaine wears off in 3-4 hours that people feel pain." Oh, goody: you mean the real pain starts later?

If there is anything positive about such procedures, it is that they last about 10-15 minutes. This time will be reduced if you can manage to keep from tightening up your back muscles, though this is much easier said than done. Bone marrow harvesting also goes faster if the physician does not produce a "dry tap," which is when the syringe fails to suck out sufficient marrow.

I learned that term the hard way, I might add, as the first two suction attempts failed to produce any meaningful amount of marrow.

Luckily I have the weekend off, with the exception of some grading and lecture prep, so if I feel like bayoneted Jacobite Highlander after the Battle of Killiecrankie later today, I at least have the solace of knowing that work can wait another day.