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Clinical Laboratory's Role: Bone Marrow Aspirates and Biopsies

While the role of the hematopathologist in the interpretation of bone marrow samples is well defined, the role of the technologist can vary greatly depending on the laboratory and the clinical setting.

In some cases, physicians deliver prepared bone marrow smears to the laboratory that they have been prepared at the patient's bedside . In other settings, the technologist assists in the bone marrow collection procedure by making bone marrow smears at the bedside. There are also situations where a physician will bring anticoagulated bone marrow in specimen tubes to the laboratory for the technologist to smear, stain, and distribute as the hematopathologist requires.

Once the marrow smears are prepared and stained, the next steps will vary depending on the laboratory. In some institutions it may be the hematology or oncology fellows/attending physicians who are responsible for counting and evaluating the aspirate smears, while the biopsy samples go to pathology. In other settings it may be the technologists who perform the differentials while hematopathology completes the evaluation and interpretation.