Questions for Donors
What does the process of donating stem cells entail?
There are three ways to collect stem cells.
- A bone marrow harvest usually takes place in an operating room under anesthesia. A small incision is made in the posterior pelvic area and a needle is inserted into the cavity of the hip bone. The bone marrow, mixed with blood, is withdrawn through the needle with a syringe. Several incisions and bone punctures may be required to harvest the amount of bone marrow needed. The size of the transplant recipient as well as the concentration of bone marrow cells in the donor's blood determine the amount of bone marrow harvested. On average, one to two pints of bone marrow are harvested. Within a few weeks your body will have replaced this marrow. After the procedure you will be monitored in the recovery room and then returned to a hospital room for a one-night stay if necessary. You may experience some discomfort at the harvest site, but it lasts only a day or so and can be controlled with medication.
- Harvesting stem cells from the peripheral blood is another method. The process to harvest stem cells is called leukopheresis or apheresis. The blood is removed through an intravenous catheter or through a large vein in the arm and is run through a machine that removes stem cells. The stem cells are removed by centrifugation and the red blood cells, plasma and platelets are returned to the individual. It takes about five hours and the process can be repeated three or more times. The number of stem cells can be increased by treating the patient with granulocyte-colony stimulating factor (G-CSF) before apheresis.
- Stem cells also come from cord blood. There are a growing number of cord blood banks in existence. Not every hospital is equipped to harvest the cord blood. Contact the National Marrow Donor Program for more information.
How do you become a donor?
Certain medical criteria need to be met to be a donor, either to a family member or as an unrelated donor.
- Donors must be in good health and have no history of cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, hepatitis, AIDS or syphilis or any other blood related disorder.
- Age requirements will vary depending on if you are donating stem cells for a family member, or as an unrelated donor.
- There are many factors to consider in becoming a donor.
For more information contact the National Marrow Donor Program at 1-800-654-1247 or www.bethematch.org.