Bone Marrow Donation

Why should I donate bone marrow?

Every year, thousands of adults and children need bone marrow transplants, a procedure that may be their only chance for survival. Although some patients with aplastic anemia, leukemia or other cancers have a genetically matched family member who can donate, about 70 percent do not. These patients’ lives depend on finding an unrelated individual with a compatible tissue type, often within their own ethnic group, who is willing to donate marrow. For more information, please visit the National Marrow Donor Program Web site at Bethematch.org

Am I eligible to donate bone marrow?

Donors joining the NMDP Registry must be between 18-60 years old, in good health and meet the NMDP donor eligibility guidelines. Donors who are not eligible to join the national registry can help patients in other ways such as making a financial contribution to tissue type other donors.

What is the process for donating bone marrow?

If you match the tissue type of a patient seeking a donor, additional testing will confirm the results and you will meet with marrow donor counselors who will help you make an informed decision about donating marrow.

The marrow collection process usually does not require an overnight stay in the hospital. The procedure itself is painless because it is performed under anesthesia. But for an average of two weeks following the procedure, most donors experience sore hips and some must restrict their activities. Most donors also report that donating marrow is a very positive experience. Many marrow donors are willing to donate again in the future.

Marrow is a substance found inside bones. It resembles blood and contains stem cells, which produce red blood cells, white blood cells and other blood components important for fighting infection, carrying oxygen and helping to control bleeding. Stem cells, the cells that transplant patients need to make new healthy marrow, usually live in bone marrow, but are also released, in small numbers, into the circulating (peripheral) blood. There are several treatments that will dramatically increase the release of stem cells into the circulating blood so that enough stem cells for transplant can be collected directly from the bloodstream.

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