There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells and bone marrow. The patient’s doctor chooses the donation method that is best for the patient.

PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure that takes place at a blood center or outpatient hospital unit. For five days leading up to donation, donors are given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in their bloodstream. Blood is then removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to the donor through the other arm. Blood-forming cells are back to their normal levels within four to six weeks.

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Marrow donation is a surgical outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital. Donors receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of the pelvic bone. The marrow replaces itself completely within four to six weeks.

Recovery and follow-up

Recovery times vary depending on the individual and type of donation. Most donors are able to return to work, school, and other activities within one to seven days after donation.

PBSC donors can expect to experience a headache, or bone or muscle aches for several days before collection, a side effect of the filgrastim injections. These effects disappear shortly after collection. Most PBSC donors report that they feel completely recovered within two weeks of donation. Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days or longer following the donation. Most marrow donors report that they feel completely recovered within three weeks of donation.


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