While smears from the bone marrow aspirate are the most common preparations, touch preparations (touch preps) made from the bone marrow biopsy core may also be useful or necessary. When aspirates are difficult or a dry tap occurs, the only sample available to be evaluated in the hematology laboratory may be the bone marrow biopsy.
To create a fresh biopsy touch preparation, the fresh bone marrow core is gently rolled between two slides, then gently rolled between five or six pairs of coverslips. There should be enough cellular elements present when using this method for the laboratory professional to evaluate. The imprints will be wet and cellular at first but as the surface dries it will eventually become less cellular. At this point the core is placed in fixative and sent to pathology for evaluation. The number of touch preps you can make is dependent on how wet/ bloody or fibrotic the core is to begin with, but even one set can be enough to aid in diagnosis.
While it is not practical to practice making touch preps from a real biopsy core, it is possible to practice the technique by using a length of applicator stick soaked in either blood or stain to simulate a real biopsy core. To do this, simply break off a short, 0.5 inch piece of a standard plain or cotton tipped applicator stick and soak it in the fluid of your choice. As you roll it between slides or coverslips you will see the pattern it leaves behind. Think of the motion of a teeter-totter (seesaw) as you roll. There should be very little downward force on the core as you coax it to roll. If the core will not roll then you can just touch the slides or coverslips to the surface of the core few times on each slide.
Note: If the biopsy is placed directly into fixative and sent to pathology, it must first be decalcified before it can be sectioned and stained. This process will take at least 24 hours depending on the lab and if additional stains are required, it may be at least 48 hours before a result is released.