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Now You Are A Match
There are 2 ways of collecting stem cells needed to perform a transplant. Neither involves surgical intervention, although one requires a general anaesthetic.
Bone Marrow Harvest
Bone marrow is taken from the pelvic bones using a needle and syringe. The procedure lasts on average about an hour and is performed under general anaesthetic. This method requires the donor to spend two nights in hospital : the overwhelming majority of donors normally leave hospital the following day.
You are likely to feel tired and a little soreness in the lower back : donors are usually recommended to allow themselves a five-day recuperation period. Bone marrow removed in this way takes about three weeks to regenerate.
Stem Cell Harvest
PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) Harvest, the other method, is even less intrusive. The donor receives injections of G-CSF (granulocyte-colony stimulating factor). This boosts the production of certain white cells and encourages blood stem cells to move from the bone marrow into the circulating blood stream.
The harvest itself is performed as an out-patient procedure. The donor's blood is removed through a cannula placed in a vein in one arm and passed through a blood separator machine, in a process known as an apheresis machine. This separates the stem cells from the remaining blood, which is returned to the donor through a cannula in the other arm. This process requires one or sometimes two collections on successive days : each take 3-4 hours. Flu-like symptoms may be experienced during the period G-CSF is being administered, but these resolve quickly after the collection and donors can generally resume their normal routine inside 24 hours.
Healthy donor marrow or cells are introduced into the patient’s blood stream much in the same manner as a blood transfusion. If the new bone marrow takes or ‘engrafts’ well, it begins producing normal healthy blood cells and the patient can begin to hope for a recovery.