Bone biopsy: a most important approaxh in bone diseases.
by Daniel CHAPPARD
GEROM-LHEA, CHU Angers Updated: june 2015
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Bone biopsy is a simple technique which harvests one (or several ones, -see below) bone cylinders through the iliac bone. The technique appeared in the ‘60s and was considerably popularized and developed after 1970 with the development of bone histomorphometry as a most useful tool in the diagnosis of metabolic bone diseases. Bone biopsy of the iliac crest provides transfixing cores (i.e., containing the inner and outer cortex, and the trabecular network). The technique was of considerable interest in the understanding of fundamental bone biology and in the interpretation of pathologic changes in metabolic and neoplastic bone diseases. Harvesting bone from the iliac wing is simple, fast and painless under local anesthesia and the biopsy technique has been proposed to obtain autogenous bone grafts in some surgical indications when the bone volume is limited (e.g., dental implantology or maxillofacial surgery). In these cases, the general shape of the iliac wing is not altered after healing, thus avoiding some of the complications reported after a surgical approach.
For the study of human bone diseases the trephine must be of sufficient diameter (i.e., ≥ 7mm inner diameter) to correctly preserve bone microarchitecture and to provide enough marrow for a satisfying cytological analysis (1). A revolutionary histological technique that was extensively popularized in the ‘70s was the use of plastic embedding without decalcification. Polyester resins (“Bioplastic Wards”) were first used, quickly followed by the development of methylmethacrylate-based mediums. The study of undecalcified bone allows a clear identification of non-mineralized (osteoid tissue) and mineralized subparts of the bone matrix. In addition, when patients had received a double tetracycline labelling, histodynamic parameters (such as mineral apposition rate, active fraction of bone surfaces undergoing mineralization, bone formation rates…) can be measured.
Numerous trephines have been proposed during these last decades (2-10). In France, the Bordier’s trephine (with a 4 mm inner diameter) was first proposed. The Jamshidi’s needle, extensively used for the diagnosis of haematological disorders and bone metastases appears useful to harvest bone marrow biopsies but is unadapted to study bone since microarchitecture cannot be satisfactorily observed on a 1.4mm in diameter bone core. Near 1970-80, the Bordier’s trephine was modified by Meunier and others by increasing the inner diameter up to 7.5mm but the general shape of the trephine was not modified (11). We have proposed several modifications concerning the ergonomy of the Meunier’s trephine making it easier to handle and providing better preserved bone cores (12). The trephine developed in our laboratory can be proposed by Commeca (see the web site and details of the company at http://www.commeca.com/anglais/cadresoma.html)
How to perform a bone biopsy ?
Premedication is used to make the patient quiet and stressless. The recommended premedication consists in:
- analgesia with morphin sulphate per os 10 mg, 90 min before the biopsy (Sevredol®)
- and anti-stress treatment with diazepam 20-30mg per os, 90 min before the biopsy (Valium®).
A local infiltration of both the inner and outer cortices with lidocaine hydrochloride (1%, without adrenaline) ensures a perfect anaesthesia of the 2 sides of the iliac wing. Forty ml of lidocaine are necessary to achieve a complete infiltration.
Anaesthesia of the inner cortex
Anaesthesia of the outer cortex
In this exact position, the operator injects 20ml of lidocaine as follows:
- 15ml are injected directly in contact with the periosteum of the cortex while moving laterally the needle to cover a small area,
- 5ml are injected inside the muscles and fascias in the future trajectory of the incision. This is done by moving upward/downward the needle while injecting.
Anaesthesia of the skin
Because lidocaine anaesthesia needs 2-3min to complete, this time is used to prepare the surgical table. It comprises: the trephine (with its 4 different parts: punch, guide, cutting part an extractor), a lancet (with blade #11 or #21), forceps and scissors…
The table should also comprise ancillary material: a vial with a local disinfectant (e.g., chlorexidine), gauzes and thread. The operator also wears with a sterile gown and use sterile gloves.
The biopsy technique
The patient staying in the lateral decubitus position, a fenestrated drape is stuck on the biopsy area (i.e., at the site of the 2nd and 3rd injection of lidocaine). After having controlled that skin anaesthesia is obtained (absence of pinprick sensation) a 1.5 cm incision is done. The operator sections the skin and muscles and the lancet must come in direct contact with the periosteum. The periosteal fibres are also sectioned.
The punch and guide are then inserted through the incision. The sharp extremity of the guide comes in direct contact with the external cortex of the iliac wing. The guide is then move down to come in contact with the bone and it is firmly immobilized with the operator’s hand. The punch is then taken off; the trephine is inserted in the guide and the cutting teeth of the trephine are in contact with the bone. The design of the instrument with a T shape, allows a good grip with 3 fingers. The biopsy is done by exerting shearing movements; usually it needs 10 to 30 seconds to section the outer cortex, trabecular bone and inner cortex. It is important to understand that bone is not cut by the instrument but sheared off by the teeth. So, do not try to cut bone by exerting complete rotations of the trephine; this provokes the accumulation of bone debris and impairs sectioning by filling the instrument’s teeth. Sectioning the different parts of the iliac wing can be easily appreciated by the operator. When the biopsy is complete, the bone core remains in the trephine.
Expelling the bone biopsy from the trephine
The operator takes off the guide and cutting part of the trephine from the patient. He must expel the biopsy as soon as possible to better preserve histological quality of the specimen. A piece of gauze is placed at the tip of the trephine (“top-hat” gauze) and the extractor is placed inside the trephine. The operator should strike a dry blow to expel the biopsy which remains in the gauze and can easily be handled and transferred to the fixative.
Suture and bandaging
The skin is sutured with non resorbable surgical thread (usually 2 suture points are sufficient). A compressive bandage is necessary and a 24 hours bed rest must be recommended to avoid local haematoma. Patients must not stand up or sit down in bed during 24 hours even for meals and toilet. The bandage can be taken off on the day following the biopsy and the threads after a time interval of ≈ 8 days.
See the video:
a 64 Mo film in avi/mp4 format (in English).Incidents and accidents of bone biopsy(13)
Is bone biopsy a painful procedure?
Handling and use of bone biopsy in the laboratory
After fixation, bone biopsies are processed in the bone pathology laboratory. Bones are infiltrated with methylmethacrylate-based mediums and polymerized. Blocks are then sectioned on specially designed heavy duty microtomes equipped with tungsten carbide knives. Sections (usually 7µm in thickness) are stained with several histological techniques:
for a detailed paper on the histological techniques see this paper
The histomorphometric analysis is done either with integration microscopic oculars or with image analyzers. Histomorphometry provides “static parameters” including cortical thickness and porosity, trabecular bone volume, trabecular characteristics (thickness, number and separation). Bone mineralization is studied on osteoid parameters and “histodynamic parameters” are obtained with fluorescent microscopy of the tetracycline labels. Recently, microarchitectural descriptors of trabecular bone architecture have been proposed by some laboratories and appear very useful in the analysis of osteoporosis. The development of microcomputed tomographs has also permitted a direct 3D analysis of the bone core before the more classical histological processing (see our webpage).
Leica Quantimet Q550 (left) and Skyscan 1172 microcomputed tomograph (right)
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11. Meunier P, Vauzelle JL, Vignon G 1968 La lecture quantitative de la biopsie osseuse. Moyen de diagnostic et d'etude des osteoses decalcifiantes diffuses. Rhumatologie 20:301-12.
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13. Trueba D, Sawaya BP, Mawad H, Malluche HH 2003 Bone biopsy: indications, techniques, and complications. Semin Dial 16:341-5.
14. Audran M., Maury E., Bouvard B., Legrand E., Baslé M.F., Chappard D. Is trans-iliac bone biopsy a painful procedure? Clin Nephrol 77, 97-104, 2012.