Most healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 60 can donate stem cells from their blood. Collecting or harvesting stem cells from your bloodstream is called apheresis.
Before the donation
For 4 or 5 days before you donate, you will get shots to help your bone marrow make and send more stem cells into your bloodstream. The medicine in the shots may cause bone and muscle aches, headaches, fatigue, and difficulty sleeping. These side effects usually go away 2 or 3 days later.
During the donation
Donations are done in a blood center or hospital. A nurse will stick a needle into a vein in your arm to take your blood. Your blood is sent through a machine that takes out the stem cells and saves them. Then your blood is sent back into you through a needle in your other arm. If the veins in your arm won't work, the doctor may put a catheter in your neck or chest instead. In that case, local anesthesia is used.
The donation takes from 4 to 5 hours. You won't be able to move around during that time.
It's not unusual to feel lightheaded, have chills, feel numbness around your lips, or have cramping in your hands during the donation.
The donation may need to be repeated the next day, depending on how many stem cells are needed.
After the donation
You will be able to go home after the donation and resume your normal activities. If the donation needs to be repeated and a catheter was used, you may need to stay overnight in the hospital.
Your bone marrow will make new stem cells to replace the ones you donated.
In rare cases, temporary anemia and low platelet counts develop after a person donates stem cells by apheresis.
Current as of: August 22, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Brian Leber, MDCM, FRCPC - Hematology