Bone Marrow Donation Process: Marrow or "bone marrow" is the soft tissue in the cavities of bones that is involved in the production of all blood cells in the body. Every year, thousands of people need donated marrow to treat a range of diseases and blood disorders.
Marrow transplants are used to treat many serious illnesses including sickle cell anemia and a range of cancers including leukemia, Hodgkin's disease, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (follicular lymphoma), malignant lymphomas, multiple myeloma, and solid tumors.
If the transplant is successful, the newly transplanted marrow makes a home in the recipient's bones and begins to divide into more stem cells and produce normal healthy blood cells. If you are interested in becoming a bone marrow donor, this infographic should give you a general idea of what the process entails:
Bone Marrow Donation Process - Step #1: Join a Registry
After joining a registry (e.g. Be the Match and DKMS), you will be included in patient searches everyday. Joining a registry requires a sample of cells, which are collected by swabbing the inside of your cheek. The sample is used to compare protein markers with those of the patient.
Bone Marrow Donation Process - Step #2: Search for a Match
Doctors search the registry to find donors with protein markers that match those of their patients. These searches happen on behalf of patients on a daily basis, so the most important thing to do for registry members is stay committed. If you are a match, you will be contacted to confirm that you are willing to donate.
Bone Marrow Donation Process - Step #3: Best Match?
If you agree to the donation, you will be asked to update your health information and participate in additional testing in order to determine that you are the best match for the patient.
Bone Marrow Donation Process - Step #4: 411 and Physical
If you are indeed the best match, you will participate in an information session. You will receive detailed information about the donation procedure and recovery process, including risks and side effects. If you agree to donate, you will then sign a consent form. Finally, you will have a physical examination and give blood samples to make sure the donation is safe for both you and the patient.
Bone Marrow Donation Process - Step #5A: PBSC Donation
There are two methods of donation: PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) and bone marrow. The patient's doctor decides which one is best for the patient. PBSC donation is a non-surgical procedure. For 5 days leading up to donation, you will be given injections of the medication filgrastim. Filgrastim increases the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. On the day of donation, blood is removed from one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned through the other arm.
Bone Marrow Donation Process - Step #5B: Bone Marrow Donation
Bone marrow donation is a surgical procedure that takes place in a hospital operating room. Doctors use needles to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. Donors receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the procedure.
Bone Marrow Donation Process - Step 6: Recovery and Follow-Up
The amount of time it takes a donor to recover varies. It depends on the person and type of donation. Most donors are able to return to work, school, and other activities within 1-7 days of the donation. Registries understand the importance of donor safety and will follow up with you regularly until you resume normal activity.