Is donating marrow the same as donating blood?

No. When you register with DKMS, you are making yourself available as a potential marrow donor for a patient in need of transplant. If you do match with a patient, you will be asked to donate marrow or blood stem cells in procedures that differ from donating blood. You can remain a regular blood donor after registering as a bone marrow donor, however if you do match with a patient, we ask that you don’t give blood for a month prior to donation.

What is the difference between “bone marrow” and “blood stem cells?”

When you register, you have the potential of donating either bone marrow or blood stem cells, depending on the needs of the patient. Bone marrow is the spongy tissue inside your bones that produces blood stem cells—the cells in your body that produce red and white blood cells, as well as platelets. These blood stem cells also exist in your bloodstream, where they are called peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC). There are different procedures for donating marrow and blood stem cells.

What are the two ways to donate?

You may be asked to donate via peripheral blood stem cell (PBSC) collection or bone marrow donation. The patient’s doctor chooses the method that promises the best outcome for the patient, that's why we ask that all registrants be comfortable moving forward with either method.

Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) Donation
This is the donation method used in 75% of cases. PBSC donation is a non-surgical, outpatient procedure that collects blood stem cells via the bloodstream. During the procedure, your blood is drawn through one arm and passed through a machine that filters out the blood stem cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through your other arm. To increase your blood stem cells prior to donation, you will receive daily injections of a synthetic protein called filgrastim on the four days leading up to and on the morning of the procedure. The actual donation can take from 4-8 hours over the course of 1-2 days.

Bone Marrow Donation
This is the donation method used in about 25% of cases, generally when the patient is a child. It is a 1-2 hour surgical procedure performed under anesthesia, so no pain is experienced during the donation. Marrow cells are collected from the back of your hip bone using a syringe.

"The medical care that DKMS provided to my daughter was superior. The donation and medical clearance was done at a world-class hospital. It was a great comfort to me to know that she was in good hands every step of the way." —Mother of a donor

Does donating hurt?

Both donation procedures will result in some level of discomfort, but most donors report that any pain experienced is easily eclipsed by the positive feelings of knowing they are possibly saving a life.

Possible Side Effects & Recovery of PBSC
While taking filgrastim, you may experience flu-like symptoms such as headaches, bone and muscle aches and fatigue. Most side effects should subside within 48 hours of donating. Your stem cells replenish within 1 week.

Possible Side Effects & Recovery of Bone Marrow Collection
You may experience some pain, bruising and stiffness for up to two weeks after donation. Within a week of donating, you should be able to return to work, school and many regular activities. Your marrow will completely replenish itself within 3-6 weeks.

We check up with you regularly after donation to make sure you are recovering properly. If you're not, we'll arrange and pay for any follow-up care.

“The thing that struck me most about the whole process was that, literally hours after the donation completed, the thing I wanted most in the world was to have a chance to do it again.” —Anne, Donor

Can I choose the donation method?

The donation method is selected by the patient’s doctor based on which they believe is best for the patient. That’s why we ask that you be comfortable with the prospect of peripheral blood stem cell collection and bone marrow donation. If you become a match for a patient and are not willing to donate through one of these methods, please notify your coordinator immediately.

Is bone marrow taken from my spine?

No. The marrow is extracted from the back of your pelvic bone using a special syringe.

Will I permanently lose my stem cells?

For either donation procedure, the amount of stem cells collected is only a fraction of your body’s total. Your donation does not weaken your immune system and the cells will naturally replenish themselves within a few weeks.