The first step to becoming a bone marrow donor is to join the Be The Match Registry®. Thousands of patients with blood cancers like leukemia and lymphoma, sickle cell and other life-threatening diseases need a bone marrow transplant. Doctors search the Be The Match Registry to find donors who match their patients.
If you match a patient, you will be asked to donate either bone marrow or cells from circulating blood (known as PBSC donation). Understanding the donation process will help you be ready to donate.
Note: Information on marrow donation is also available in Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese.
First join Be The Match Registry
It's easy to join the registry online or at a donor registry drive near you.
Be The Match Registry is the new name for the National Marrow Donor Program® (NMDP) Registry. If you joined the NMDP Registry, either in person or online, you are a member of Be The Match Registry and do not need to join again. Learn more about Be The Match.
Step 1. Getting ready to donate
- If you match a patient, we will contact you to ask if you are willing to donate. If you agree to proceed, we will ask you about your health and schedule more testing to see if you are the best match for the patient. For more information, see When You’re Contacted as a Possible Match.
- If you are the best match, you will participate in an information session. You will be given detailed information about the donation and recovery process, including risks and side effects. If you agree to donate, you will sign a consent form.
- Next, you will have a physical examination to make sure that donation is safe for both you and the patient.
For more information, see When You’re Asked to Donate for a Patient.
Step 2. Donating PBSC or marrow
There are two methods of donation: peripheral blood stem cells (PBSC) and bone marrow. The patient's doctor chooses the donation method that is best for the patient.
PBSC donation is a nonsurgical procedure that takes place at a blood center or outpatient hospital unit. For 5 days leading up to donation, you will be given injections of a drug called filgrastim to increase the number of blood-forming cells in your bloodstream. Your blood is then removed through a needle in one arm and passed through a machine that separates out the blood-forming cells. The remaining blood is returned to you through the other arm. Your blood-forming cells are back to their normal levels within 4 to 6 weeks. To learn more, watch the PBSC donation video.
|Marrow donation is a surgical outpatient procedure that takes place at a hospital. You will receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the donation. Doctors use a needle to withdraw liquid marrow from the back of your pelvic bone. The marrow replaces itself completely within 4 to 6 weeks. To learn more, watch the marrow donation video.
Step 3. Recovery and follow-up
Recovery times vary depending on the individual and type of donation. Most donors are able to return to work, school, and other activities within 1 to 7 days after donation.
|PBSC donors can expect to experience a headache, or bone or muscle aches for several days before collection, a side effect of the filgrastim injections. These effects disappear shortly after collection. Most PBSC donors report that they feel completely recovered within 2 weeks of donation.
||Marrow donors can expect to feel some soreness in their lower back for a few days or longer following the donation. Most marrow donors report that they feel completely recovered within 3 weeks of donation.
We will follow up with you until you are able to resume normal activity. For more information, see After You Donate.
For more details about what to expect from the donation process, see the Donation FAQs.