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H H S Department of Health and Human Services
Health Resources and Services Administration
Blood Cell Transplant

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Donating Marrow

If your tissue type matches a patient, there will be additional testing. If your tissue type is still the best match, you will then be asked to donate your healthy cells.

You will be contacted and asked to attend an information session to learn more about the donation process. At that time, you will be told the type of donation being requested: either bone marrow or cells collected from the blood, called peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) donation.

The Be The Match Registry® works with donors throughout the entire donation process. The Be The Match Registry is the registry of the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation Program and is operated under Federal contracts by the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP).

On this page:

When You are Contacted

A Be The Match Registry representative will contact you if your tissue type matches a patient needing a life-saving transplant. However, before you can donate your bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, you will:

  1. Have your tissue type checked more completely. Although your tissue type seems to match, it needs to match the patient's tissue at a detailed level.
  2. Attend an informational session by telephone or in person. You will learn about the donation, risks, and side effects. Then you will decide whether or not to donate.
  3. Receive a physical exam. If you agree to donate, a doctor will examine you to ensure that donating is safe for you as well as the patient.

Donation of Bone Marrow or PBSC

After you agree to donate your bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells, the patient begins preparing for the transplant. By the time you begin the donation, the patient has finished treatment to prepare for the transplant and can no longer produce any healthy blood cells. The patient needs your healthy cells to live.

The patient’s doctor chooses the type of donation—bone marrow or PBSC—based on what will give the best transplant results for this patient.

Bone Marrow Donation

Marrow donation is a surgical procedure done in a hospital:

  1. You receive anesthesia.
  2. Doctors use special, hollow needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bones.
  3. You may receive a transfusion of your own previously donated blood.
  4. After you recover from the anesthesia, you typically return home the same day.

After the procedure, you will probably feel some soreness in your back for a few days, or possibly a week or more. Most donors are back to their normal routine in a few days.

To learn more about this process, see Marrow Donation FAQs.

PBSC Donation

The preparation for and the donation of PBSC are non-surgical procedures:

  1. PBSC Preparation. You will receive daily injections of filgrastim for 5 days leading up to the donation procedure.

    Filgrastim is a protein similar to a hormone naturally produced in the body. Filgrastim moves the blood-forming cells out of your marrow and into your bloodstream so that there are enough blood-forming cells for a transplant.

    The injections of filgrastim may be given to you by a home health nurse, or a nurse or doctor at a local clinic, or a donor center staff member. After you receive the injections, and until you donate, you may experience side effects including headache, bone or muscle pain, nausea, difficulty sleeping, tiredness, or decrease in blood platelet count.

  2. PBSC Donation Procedure. After the number of blood-forming cells in your blood is increased, you go to an apheresis center, which often is a blood bank. Your blood is drawn from a vein in one arm and passes through a machine that removes the blood-forming cells. The rest of your blood is returned through a vein in your other arm.

Seventy-five percent of all PBSC donations are completed in one apheresis session, which may take up to 8 hours. The remaining 25% of donations are completed in two apheresis sessions, lasting approximately 4 to 6 hours each.

PBSC donation may require placement of a central line if you do not have suitable arm veins. A central venous line is a sterile tube that is inserted into one of the larger veins — the femoral vein, internal jugular vein or subclavian vein. Based on our experience, 19% of women and 3% of men require central line placement. The risk of serious complications from use of a central line is small. A central line will be placed only with your consent after you have received information about the possible risks.

The effects of the injections that increased the blood-forming cells in your bloodstream will go away shortly after the procedure, usually in a few days.

PBSC is being studied under a research protocol accepted by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Under this protocol, the NMDP is monitoring the effects of the donor's experience while receiving filgrastim. PBSC donors are given detailed information about the clinical study and sign a consent form before donating.

To learn more about PBSC donation, see PBSC Donation FAQs

Your Safety is Important

The NMDP wants to ensure your safety before and after you donate your cells. Your Be The Match donor center coordinator will follow up with you until you are able to return to your normal activities.