Stem Cell/Bone Marrow Collection
The cells used in transplant are collected from the bone marrow, the bloodstream or from an umbilical cord.
If you are having an autologous stem cell transplant - a transplant using your own stem cells - your cells will need to be collected in advance of your treatment.
If you are donating blood stem cells to someone else, the procedure used to collect your bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells is the same as that used to collects cells from autologous stem cell transplant patients.
Peripheral Blood Stem Cell Collection
Blood stem cells are found in the bone marrow. However, they can be moved or "mobilized" into the bloodstream or "peripheral blood" where they can be easily collected. When blood stem cells are collected from the bloodstream, the procedure is called a peripheral blood stem cell collection, apheresis or harvest.
Prior to the collection, the person receives daily injections of a drug such as Neupogen® (filgrastim) or Mozobil® (plerixafor) which moves stem cells out of the bone marrow into the bloodstream. Most people tolerate these drugs well, although mild, flu-like symptoms are common. These symptoms end a few days after the injections stop.
If a patient is donating his or her own stem cells for transplant, chemotherapy drugs are sometimes used to help move the stem cells out of the bone marrow into the bloodstream.
Peripheral blood stem cell collections are usually done in the outpatient clinic. The person sits in a comfortable chair and is hooked up to a machine called an apheresis machine. The machine separates the blood stem cells from the rest of the blood. Each collection takes three to four hours. Typically it takes one to three days to collect enough stem cells for transplant.
The procedure is relatively painless. However, some people experience headaches, lightheadedness, numbness around the lips or cramping in the hands during the procedure. These symptoms cease when the procedure ends.
Bone Marrow Harvest
If stem cells are collected from the bone marrow, a surgical procedure is required.
Patients are put under general or regional anesthesia, and a needle is inserted into the rear hip bone which contains a large concentration of bone marrow and blood stem cells. The bone marrow is extracted through a needle and syringe.
Several bone punctures are required to get a sufficient supply of bone marrow for transplant. After the procedure, a sterile surgical dressing is applied to the site where the bone marrow was collected.
When the anesthesia wears off, you may feel some discomfort in your lower back for several days. The pain is similar to that you would feel if you took a hard fall on your hip. You may find sitting for a long period of time or climbing stairs uncomfortable for a few days. The pain is usually relieved with Tylenol.
View our webcast Related Bone Marrow/Stem Cell Donation: Risks and Benefits to learn more about the medical procedure used to collect your bone marrow or peripheral blood stem cells.