When you are asked to donate, you are actually being asked to donate Blood Stem Cells.
There are TWO ways of donating your blood stem cells. Which procedure you will undergo depends on the need of the patient you are a match for. These two ways of donating are different methods for you to donate the exact same type of cell that a patient needs. However, studies have shown that a receiving patient can react differently to the blood stem cells, depending on where they were donated from (whether from the marrow itself, or from your circulating blood).
Whichever method you will be asked to undergo will greatly depend on the patient’s doctors and the receiving patient’s diagnosis and condition.
Here is a description of both processes:
Marrow is the traditional method of taking blood stem cells because it is your bone marrow that produces this type of cell. This usually occurs in approximately 30% of all donations.
In this procedure, liquid marrow is taken from the back of your pelvic bone (iliac crest) using sterile needles. No pain is felt during this procedure because a donor is given anesthesia.
Approximately 3-5% of your body’s total bone marrow is extracted. The procedure does not affect your immune system, nor does it affect your bones. It is commonly done as an outpatient procedure, so a donor is often able to go home the same day.
Short Term Side Effects: For approximately 4-5 days after donation, you will likely feel hip soreness, bruising and stiffness, much like the feeling you get from exercising too much or from falling down on ice. The soreness diminishes each day, and you are allowed to take pain relievers to help you heal. Your marrow completely regenerates itself, and some donors are able to go back to their normal activity the very next day.
PBSC (Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Donation)
Blood Stem Cells also exist, but to a much smaller extent, in your blood. You can therefore donate these cells through your blood – similar to platelet or plasma donation. This procedure usually occurs in approximately 70% of all donations.
In this procedure, you are given a medication called Filgrastim (or Neupogen) for 4-5 consecutive days. This medication makes your body produce more blood stem cells and makes your bone marrow release more of these cells into your blood.
On the 4th or 5th day after receiving this medication, you will come in to a collection center. You will then be hooked up to a machine which will draw blood from you, separate out the stem cells, and then return the rest of your blood back to your body.
Short Term Side Effects: Before you donate and while you are taking the Filgrastim, common side effects include a headache, bone aches or muscle aches (flu-like symptoms). These are often caused by the Filgrastim itself and disappear shortly after you donate. After you donate, you may feel some residual achiness for a few hours and/or tired. Many donors are back to their normal activities the next day.